USCGC Polar Star At Antarctica 2024 Deep Freeze
by U.S. Coast Guard Author
January 31, 2024
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) and crew arrived at McMurdo Station in Antarctica on January 16, 2024 following the cutter’s departure from its Seattle homeport on November 15, 2023.
January 17, 2024 - The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) moored up to the ice pier at McMurdo Station, Antarctica for Operation Deep Freeze that is one of many operations in the Indo-Pacific in which the U.S. military promotes security and stability across the region. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Graves.)
This deployment marks the Polar Star’s 27th journey to Antarctica supporting Operation Deep Freeze, an annual joint military service mission to resupply the United States Antarctic stations in support of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program.
Each year, the crew takes the 399-foot, 13,000-ton cutter south to break a navigable channel through miles of ice, sometimes as much as 21-feet thick, to allow fuel and supply ships to reach McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Program’s logistics hub and the largest station on the continent.
Polar Star crossed the Southern Ocean to navigate the Ross Sea pack ice December 26, and by the start of the new year, had commenced breaking 35 nautical miles of fast ice that extended from the ice pier in Winter Quarters Bay at McMurdo Station out to the Ross Sea. Polar Star spent three weeks breaking ice to make the initial cut for the shipping channel. They will continue to groom the channel for the next several weeks ensuring a navigable approach for the supply vessels.
The cleared channel to McMurdo Station will enable two supply vessels, Ocean Gladiator and Arcadia Trade, to offload more than 1,000 cargo containers and 8 million gallons of fuel. Together these two ships carry enough fuel, food, and supplies to sustain USAP operations throughout the year until the next air and sealift opportunity in the austral summer of 2025.
The cutter made international stops in Sydney and Hobart, Australia on the way to Antarctica. While in Australia, the crew engaged with the Royal Australian Navy, the United States Embassy and U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, Australian members of Parliament, and local schools, universities, and children’s hospitals.
“It is a privilege to sail with the incredible, hard working men and women of Polar Star,” said Capt. Keith Ropella, commanding officer, Polar Star. “The crew dedicates countless hours year-round preparing the 48-year-old ship for this critical mission and I could not ask for a more capable, dedicated team.”
Every year, a joint and total force team works together to complete a successful Operation Deep Freeze season. Active, Guard and Reserve service members from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy work together to forge a Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica that continues the tradition of U.S. military support to the United States Antarctic Program.
Operation Deep Freeze is vitally important for the U.S. to maintain its presence in Antarctica and protect uninhibited international access to the region. Through Operation Deep Freeze, international treaty inspection support, and other operations, the U.S. Coast Guard maintains regional presence that enables the U.S. and its international partners to deter adversarial actions and preserve Antarctica as a scientific sanctuary.
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