US Cutter Heading to Antarctic to Free Russian, Chinese Vessels

FILE - The 399-foot U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star in Seattle, March 10, 2010.
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FILE – The 399-foot U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star in Seattle, March 10, 2010.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star is steaming toward Antarctica, to join the rescue effort for the icebound Russian vessel M.V. Akademik Shokalskiy and the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon.

The Polar Star, a non-nuclear icebreaker, cut short a planned stop in Sydney, Australia this week on its first deployment since a $90 million overhaul. It is expected to reach the two vessels, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, by Thursday.


The Russian ship left New Zealand November 28, trying to recreate Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s century-old voyage to Antarctica but it got stuck in the ice. The Snow Dragon got stuck trying to help

Fifty-two passengers who were stranded on board the Shokalskiy were airlifted by helicopter on January 2 to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis. The Aurora Australis turned for home on Saturday after being told it was not needed to help the Snow Dragon.

Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard received a call from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the organization coordinating the rescue of the trapped ships, to help break a path through the ice. With engines that can deliver 75,000 horsepower, the Polar Star has 5.5 times the horsepower of the Chinese rescue ship.


USCGC Polar Star

-Designed for open-water icebreaking
-Has a reinforced hull and special icebreaking bow
-Can continuously break 1.8 meters of ice at 3 knots
-Can break 6.4 meters of ice backing and ramming
-121 meters long, one of the largest ships in the US Coast Guard
-One of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear ships
-Recently completed a $90 million overhaul
-Maximum speed is 18 knots

Source: US Coast Guard