On April 10, 2023, the U.S. Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker, Polar Star, arrived back in its home port of Seattle after traveling to Antarctica. The Polar Star’s crew were greeted by family members awaiting their arrival after a 144-day deployment.  

Polar Star departed for Antarctica on Nov. 14, 2022, traveling over 25,000 miles. The vessel sailed through the Pacific, Indian, Southern, and South Atlantic oceans.

The mission, Operation Deep Freeze, is an annual trip to resupply McMurdo Station: the research center for the U.S. Antarctic Program, and the largest on the continent.  The most recent deployment marks Polar Star’s 26th mission to Antarctica and the 63rd consecutive annual operation.

Commissioned in 1976, the 399' 13,500-ton vessel is the most powerful ship in the U.S. Coast Guard. It is powered by six Alco 16V-251F diesel engines and three aviation-grade Pratt & Whitney FT-4A12 gas turbine engines that produce a total of 75,000 hp. Each of the three shafts is connected to a 4-bladed propeller that is 16' in diameter. The Polar Star is currently the only U.S. asset capable of providing access to both Polar Regions. 

However. as part of its five-year Service Life Extension Project (SLEP), the vessel heads to Vallejo, Calif., this month. Mare Island Dry Dock LLC will recapitalize propulsion, communications, and machinery control systems, as well as conduct maintenance to extend the vessel’s service life by four years.

Ben Hayden is a Maine resident who grew up in the shipyards of northern Massachusetts. He can be reached at (207) 842-5430 and [email protected].