Polar Star Called Off After Ice-Bound Ships Get Free

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star is standing down from a rescue mission in Antarctica on Tuesday after the vessels it was going to assist broke free on their own.

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The Polar Star had been called in to clear a path for two ice-bound vessels: a Russian research ship and a Chinese icebreaker. The Polar Star departed Australia for Antarctica on Saturday and would have arrived on scene Jan. 12.

Allyson Conroy, the Coast Guard’s chief warrant officer for the Pacific Area, says the stranded ships got favorable winds Tuesday and were able to break out of the ice on their own. She says the ships are now in open water.

That means the Polar Star’s services are no longer needed.

Conroy says the icebreaker will now continue on to its primary mission in Antarctica — to resupply the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station. It’s the first time the cutter has returned to Antarctica since 2006.

The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only active heavy-duty icebreaker. It recently had a major overhaul, and it made a stop in Unalaska last June before undergoing ice trials in the Arctic. It’s homeported in Seattle.

Annie Ropeik is a reporter for KUCB in Unalaska.

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