Scene on the Sound: The Polar Star passed by Shoreline on Tuesday

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Polar Star photo by Jan Hansen

The icebreaker Polar Star sailed by Shoreline on Tuesday. Sister ship Healy is currently in the Arctic.


Homeported in Seattle, Polar Star operates under the control of Coast Guard Pacific Area and coordinates her operations through the Ice Operations Section of the United States Coast Guard. After Polar Sea was deactivated in 2010, Polar Star became the US's only heavy icebreaker. The Coast Guard's only other icebreaker, USCGC Healy, despite being classified as a "medium icebreaker", is actually larger than 'Polar Star' (13,623 LT versus 16,000 LT).


Most POLAR STAR deployments used to be characterized as Arctic East Summer, Arctic West Summer, or Operation Deep Freeze. 

Arctic East Summer (AES) and Arctic West Summer (AWS) were generally three-month deployments to the Arctic ice regions. The primary purpose of those deployments was scientific research. The J-frames and winches for coring and trawling operations near the stern and port side support at-sea studies in the fields of geology, volcanology, oceanography, sea-ice physics and other disciplines. 

AES port calls included the Caribbean, Greenland, Iceland, Canada and Europe. AWS port calls also sometimes included Alaskan ports such as Dutch Harbor, Juneau, Kodiak, and Nome.

Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) is an annual voyage from November to March, which traditionally was alternated each year between POLAR STAR and her sister ship POLAR SEA. POLAR STAR now completes the ODF mission each year since POLAR SEA is now decommissioned. 

The primary purpose of this deployment is to break a channel in the fast ice to McMurdo Station, the American base located near the Ross Ice Shelf. POLAR STAR then escorts research and supply vessels into McMurdo. Deep Freeze port calls may include various Pacific Islands, Australia, the Far East and South America.

--Research by Jan Hansen


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