U.S. Coast Guard cutters from the West Coast have engaged in two lengthy missions, one in support of the United States Antarctic stations, and a second in counterdrug operations in the East Pacific Ocean.
The first began on Nov. 13 with the departure of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star from its homeport in Seattle; the second began in mid-December at Port Angeles, California, concluding on Feb. 4.
Crew aboard the Polar Star, on its 25th journey to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze, were to spend January and February breaking ice at McMurdo Station for fuel and supply ships, then return to the west coast of the United States in March.
Upon return in March, the 46-year-old Polar Star, the nation’s sole provider of icebreaking services, will head for drydock for maintenance and repair, while the crewmembers returned to the Polar Star’s homeport in Seattle, Coast Guard officials said.
The annual joint military service mission to resupply the United States Antarctic stations in support of the National Science Foundation, lead agency for the United States Antarctic program, began with the departure of the cutter from its Seattle homeport on Nov. 13.
The 157 crewmembers aboard the 399-foot, 13,000-ton cutter reached the Ross Sea in Antarctica on Jan. 3 and began breaking the 37 miles of ice in the channel to allow two supply ships to offload over eight million gallons of fuel and 1,000 cargo containers, providing enough fuel, food and critical supplies to sustain the Antarctic Program until the next sealift in the austral summer of 2023.
The icebreaker’s arrival at McMurdo Station also marked the return of the Polar Star following the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2020-2021 season, Polar Star conducted a winter Arctic deployment, trekking to the Arctic Circle to be a presence in northern high latitudes under winter conditions and to train a new generation of polar sailors.
Crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Active, meanwhile, completed a 10,572-mile, 55-day counterdrug operations deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central America and returned to their homeport of Port Angeles, California on Feb. 4.
Coast Guard officials said that the fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific requires a united effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions to criminal prosecutions for such interdictions by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices nationwide.