SEATTLE — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star has departed to support a joint military service mission called Operation Deep Freeze. Seattle is the homeport for the heavy icebreaker, and Captain Keith Ropella is the Commanding Officer.
"We are just the tip of the spear for the resupply of McMurdo, which is the science station down in Antarctica,” said Ropella.
Polar Star is the United States' only heavy icebreaker. The vessel can cut through ice that is as thick as 21 feet. The Coast Guard makes the annual journey to create a path to allow refuel and resupply ships to reach the science station, according to Petty Officer Michael Clark.
"That's extremely logistically important for the science missions on the United States' and our partners' interests in the South Pole,” said Clark.
The icebreaking fleet in the United States consists of the Polar Star, which is 46 years old, and Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The Coast Guard wants to expand its fleet in Seattle, and is still exploring options.
"One would expand the base north, one would expand the base south, and one would be a hybrid,” Clark said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Polar Star was pushing forward with 140 people onboard. The departure marks the beginning of a four-and-a-half-month trip. The journey just getting underway is more than 20,000 miles to Antarctica and back.