The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is on a mission — keeping a channel through the Ross Sea open to resupply the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station on Ross Island.
To break through the ice, the 399-foot Polar Star has three gas turbines that can generate as much as 75,000 hp. The power enables the heavy icebreaker to cruise through 6 feet of ice at a continuous speed of 3 knots. The 13,000-ton ship can surge out of the water and bulldoze through ice as thick as 21 feet when necessary.
This video from National Geographic shows Polar Star in action:
Polar Star also serves as a scientific research platform. With five laboratories, it is capable of supporting studies in fields that include geology, volcanology, oceanography and sea-ice physics.
The icebreakerwas in Hawaii in mid-December to pick up food and fuel. It left for Antarctica with food to support about 175 crewmembers for 14 months in case it gets stuck and needs to wait for the next year’s thaw to break free.