The Seattle-based U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star departed Australia on Dec. 21 to begin its journey across the Southern Ocean en route to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2023.
The Polar Star ’s Hobart, Australia port call was part of the crew’s annual deployment to Antarctica to support Operation Deep Freeze, a joint military service mission to resupply the Antarctic stations of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP).
The Polar Star departed its Seattle homeport Nov. 16. The vessel’s four-day port call in Hobart was their final stop before reaching Antarctica. While in Hobart, the crew hosted a reception for guests from the Australian Antarctic Division, Australian Border Force, Tasmanian government representatives and local industry partners.
2023 marks Polar Star ’s 26th voyage to Antarctica. Every year, a joint and total force team work together to complete a successful Operation Deep Freeze season. Military members from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy work together through Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica to continue the tradition of providing U.S. military support.
Operation Deep Freeze works with other Antarctic programs, including those of Australia, New Zealand and Italy, as well as those nations’ respective defense forces.
The Polar Star provides heavy icebreaking capabilities to facilitate sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply and port cargo handling for three U.S. research stations in Antarctica with McMurdo Station being the largest.
The vessel is America’s only asset capable of providing access to both Polar Regions. It is a 399-foot heavy polar icebreaker commissioned in 1976, weighing 13,500 tons, 84-feet wide, with a 34-foot draft. The six diesel and three gas turbine engines produce up to 75,000 horsepower.
When the Polar Star deploys in support of Operation Deep Freeze, they routinely spend the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays away from home. During the cutter’s first stop in Honolulu, the crew celebrated Thanksgiving while moored alongside the U.S. Navy fleet at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu.
On Dec. 14, the Polar Star moored at a Royal Australian Navy fuel pier in Chowder Bay close to the center of Sydney during a logistics stop for fuel and supplies.