A dramatic rescue played out in the Antarctic over the last few days. This time, Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Star came to the rescue, one of the few ships in the world that could pull that off. Hats off off the Coast Guard. Again. These photos give a pretty good idea of the complexity of such a rescue.
Click on any image to enlarge and open slide show. Photos courtesy of the USCG.
From the USCG press office:
ALAMEDA, Calif. – The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star freed the fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain Friday night that was beset in ice approximately 900 miles northwest of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
After meeting with the 207-foot fishing vessel, the crew of Polar Star took the Antarctic Chieftain in a stern tow. The vessels are surrounded by 12 to 15 feet thick ice covered with two feet of snow. Towing in ice is much more hazardous than towing in open water and is a slow process. The crew of Polar Star and Antarctic Chieftain must remain vigilant and ready to respond to changing ice conditions. Upon reaching a small area of open water, also known as a polynya, the Antarctic Chieftain will commence testing the vessel’s ability to steam under its own power. Once testing is complete, Polar Star and the Antarctic Chieftain will proceed north through another 60 miles of ice.
RCC New Zealand requested U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, homeported in Seattle, to respond to the Antarctic Chieftain’s request for assistance. The 150-person crew of Polar Star was deployed to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which provides military logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) The National Science Foundation manages the USAP.
The Polar Star is the nation’s only heavy icebreaker capable of operating in the thick Antarctic ice for a mission such as breaking out the Antarctic Chieftain or clearing McMurdo Sound for the annual resupply of McMurdo Station. The 399-foot cutter is one of the largest ships in the Coast Guard and one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreakers.
Earlier Press Release:
ALAMEDA, Calif. – A U.S. Coast Guard crew is on scene with the 207-foot fishing vessel that is beset in ice approximately 900 miles northeast of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
After traveling more than 430 miles, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star has reached the crew of the Australian-flagged fishing vessel, Antarctic Chieftain, who contacted Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand Tuesday evening for assistance after becoming trapped in the Antarctic ice. The crew of the 40-year-old cutter has reported snowy conditions at times as well as large icebergs along their course to reach the vessel.
“The ice conditions were found to be much more formidable than expected. We are on scene and progressing well with the rescue,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer of the Polar Star. “It is with a great sense of pride that we are able to assist Antarctic Chieftain. Search and rescue has always been our core mission and Polar Star is demonstrating the Coast Guard’s commitment to saving lives in all the world’s oceans.”
Once they break the ice around the Antarctic Chieftain, the Polar Star’s crew will lower a remotely operated vehicle into the water for a better look at the Antarctic Chieftain’s damaged propeller blades. The fishing vessel suffered damage to three of its four propeller blades when it became stuck in the ice and has lost its ability to maneuver.