U.S. Antarctic Icebreaker visits New Zealand

While docked at Lyttelton, crew members of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star assisted the New Zealand Defence Force and the New Zealand Police throughout the night in providing assistance as needed in cordoned areas affected by the recent fire in the Christchurch Port Hills.

Crew of US Coast Guard Polar Star. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Crew of US Coast Guard Polar Star. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
USCGC POLAR STAR E3 Benjamin Briones, Constable Chris Earle, and RNZNVR LTCDR Mike Humphries. Photo credit: U.S. department of State.
USCGC POLAR STAR E3 Benjamin Briones, Constable Chris Earle, and RNZNVR LTCDR Mike Humphries. Photo credit: U.S. department of State.

 

U.S. Antarctic Icebreaker to visit New Zealand.

U.S. Embassy Press Release.

The United States has sought, and been granted, New Zealand’s permission for a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) POLAR STAR (WAGB-10), to make a port call at Lyttelton on its way home from Antarctica sometime later this month.

U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) POLAR STAR (WAGB-10), makes a port call at Lyttelton. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) POLAR STAR (WAGB-10), makes a port call at Lyttelton. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

“We are very excited about this visit, which dovetails with our long-standing Antarctic cooperation,” says U.S. Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Candy Green. “The USCGC POLAR STAR is expected to head north after completing seasonal operations in Antarctica.”

Annually, the USCGC POLAR STAR breaks a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to allow a cargo ship and fuel tanker to resupply the scientific programs on the ice. The icebreaker then escorts these ships safely in and out of McMurdo Sound. The exact date of arrival in New Zealand will be determined by its date of departure from Antarctica and the conditions it encounters while heading north.

A crane operator lowers the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star's brow onto fast ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. After reaching suitable ice, the icebreaker’s crew and passengers disembarked the cutter and enjoyed a day of ice liberty. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst).
A crane operator lowers the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star’s brow onto fast ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. After reaching suitable ice, the icebreaker’s crew and passengers disembarked the cutter and enjoyed a day of ice liberty. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Cla

This annual U.S. resupply allows for year-round scientific activities in Antarctica and is critical to the operation of McMurdo Station that serves as a logistics hub for Amundsen-Scott South Pole Stations (800 miles inland from McMurdo) and various field camps as well as operation of New Zealand’s Scott Base.

Chargé Green says this year’s stop in New Zealand makes a lot of sense.

“A number of the scientific programs in Antarctica will benefit from this year’s supply stop in Lyttelton. This visit saves days of transit time for the vessel and the fuel associated, saves money, and strengthens our joint cooperation on the ice.  Additionally, doing it this way frees up space on the U.S. Antarctic Program’s fleet of ski-equipped LC-130 cargo aircraft to conduct missions on the continent.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star backs and rams through dense ice off the Antarctic coast, Jan. 15, 2017. The Polar Star and its crew work to establish a resupply channel through Antarctic ice to enable ships to reach the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley).
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star backs and rams through dense ice off the Antarctic coast, Jan. 15, 2017. The Polar Star and its crew work to establish a resupply channel through Antarctic ice to enable ships to reach the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo

Chargé Green says that the possibility of any future U.S. ship visits to New Zealand would continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the two countries.

“Any conversations about the possibility of future visits will focus on practical cooperation, friendship, and advancing shared interests,” she says.

Commissioned in 1976, the ship was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, Washington along with her sister ship, POLAR SEA (WAGB-11). POLAR STAR is one of the largest ships in the U.S. Coast Guard.

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