For the 27th year running, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star is enroute to Antarctica to break a navigable channel through ice for Operation Deep Freeze (ODF). The vessel departed Nov. 15.
It’s a task described by Polar Star Commanding Officer Capt. Keith Ropella as a unique, important mission that requires year-round effort from crew to prepare the now 47-year-old vessel for the 20,000 nautical mile round trip, where the Polar Star will be subject to extreme environmental conditions.
The Coast Guard said that it’s recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to the polar regions and to protect the country’s economic, environmental and national security interests. To date, the Polar Star has completed the third of five planned phases of the service life extension project at a cost of $15.6 million over a 132-day maintenance period.
Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica provide the Defense Department support for the NSF and USAP through ODF. The total force team includes active, Guard, reserve service members from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy working together.
The Coast Guard provides direct logistical support to the project and maintains a regional presence that preserves Antarctic as a scientific refuge.
“Our commitment to the Antarctic region is unwavering and we have been pleased to increase our maritime cooperation with like-minded members of the Antarctic Treaty, as well as investing in new technologies and vessels to ensure our presence is enduring,” Pacific Area Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Tiongson said.