The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star leaves a channel through the ice in the Ross Sea below the Antarctic Circle on Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

USCG Icebreaker Completes Mission Despite Flooding, Engine Failure

The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star completed their mission Tuesday in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) after cutting a resupply channel through 15 miles of Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea and escorting supply vessels to the continent.

The Polar Star sailed from Seattle to assist in the annual delivery of operating supplies and fuel for NSF research stations in Antarctica during Operation Deep Freeze by carving a navigable path through seasonal and multi-year ice sometimes as much as 10-feet thick. Operation Deep Freeze is the logistical support provided by the U.S. Armed Forces to the U.S. Antarctic Program.

“Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” said Capt. Michael Davanzo, the commanding officer of the Polar Star. “Our arrival was delayed due to these challenges, but the crew and I are certainly excited to be here. It’s a unique opportunity for our crewmembers to visit the most remote continent in the world, and in many respects it makes the hard work worth it.”

On Jan. 16, Polar Star’s shaft seal failed, causing flooding in the cutter’s engine room at a rate of approximately 20 gallons per minute. The crew responded quickly, using an emergency shaft seal to stop the flow of freezing, Antarctic water into the vessel. The crew was able dewater the engineering space and effect more permanent repairs to the seal to ensure the watertight integrity of the vessel. There were no injuries as a result of the malfunction.

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