Polar Star rescues fishing vessel trapped by ice
A disabled fishing vessel beset by ice about 900 miles northeast of McMurdo Sound, Antarctic, was rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker. The 207-foot fishing vessel, the Antarctic Chieftain, had 26 people aboard. The crew of the Coast Guard Cu...
A disabled fishing vessel beset by ice about 900 miles northeast of McMurdo Sound, Antarctic, was rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker.
The 207-foot fishing vessel, the Antarctic Chieftain, had 26 people aboard.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star freed the fishing vessel and towed it to the safety of open water Saturday. The crew of the Australian-flagged fishing vessel, Antarctic Chieftain, contacted Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand Feb. 10 for assistance after becoming trapped in the Antarctic ice. The crew of the 40-year-old cutter reported heavy, snow, wind and ice conditions at times, as well as large icebergs along their course.
"We are navigating through heavy pack ice, dodging massive icebergs that range in size from a Home Depot to some that are miles across, often in low visibility conditions," said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer of the Polar Star as he was on the way to reach the fishing vessel. "The mission ... we are now engaged (in) demonstrates the Coast Guard's core mission to save lives at sea - in any continents' waters. Polar Star is proud to be able to assist New Zealand in the rescue of the Australian fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain."
The Antarctic Chieftain suffered damage to three of its four propeller blades when it became stuck in the ice and has lost its ability to maneuver. According to Mike Hill, the manager of RCC New Zealand and Safety Services, the fishing boat's hull was not damaged and the crew of 26 was not at risk. There has been no reported oil spill or environmental impact.
The RCC New Zealand requested U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, homeported in Seattle, to respond to the Antarctic Chieftain's position. The 150-person crew of Polar Star was deployed to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which provides military logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program managed by the National Science Foundation.
The Polar Star had to break the ice around the Antarctic Chieftain to reach it.
"Towing is always challenging, this evolution poses more risk because of the harsh weather and extensive ice coverage," said Lt. j.g. Joel Wright, Polar Star's operations officer.
Once the Antarctic Chieftain is freed from the ice, the New Zealand-flagged fishing vessel Janas is scheduled to escort or tow the vessel to the nearest safe harbor.
The Polar Star is the nation's only heavy icebreaker capable of operating in the thick Antarctic ice for a mission such as breaking out the Antarctic Chieftain or clearing McMurdo Sound for the annual resupply of McMurdo Station. The 399-foot cutter is one of the largest ships in the Coast Guard and one of the world's most powerful non-nuclear icebreakers.
Maritime New Zealand manages RCC New Zealand, which is responsible for all major maritime and aviation search and rescue missions within New Zealand's search and rescue region. Maritime New Zealand is responsible for search and rescue, maritime environmental protection, maritime transportation and numerous other maritime missions in New Zealand.
Pacific Area is the Coast Guard's regional command element and force provider for maritime safety, security, and stewardship in the Pacific. The Coast Guard's Pacific Area encompasses six of the seven continents, 71 countries, and more than 74 million square miles of ocean -- from the U.S. Western States to Asia, and from the Arctic to Antarctica.