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Press Release | Nov. 16, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star departs Seattle to begin Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica

SEATTLE – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) and crew departed Seattle, Wednesday, and are scheduled to transit to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze.

Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) is an annual joint military mission to resupply the United States Antarctic stations in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). This marks the 27th year for the Polar Star to render support.

Each year, the Polar Star crew breaks a navigable channel through ice, allowing fuel and supply ships to reach McMurdo Station, which is the largest Antarctic station and the logistics hub of the USAP.

“Operation Deep Freeze is a unique and important mission that Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star undertakes each year,” said Capt. Keith Ropella, Polar Star’s commanding officer. “This mission requires year-round effort from the crew to prepare this 47-year-old cutter for the 20,000 nautical mile round trip and extreme environmental conditions we will face. We have an incredible and dedicated team; I couldn’t be more excited or more proud to make this journey with them.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to the polar regions and to protect the country’s economic, environmental, and national security interests. Each year, the crew is asked to put forth an immense amount of time and effort to prepare the cutter for their annual deployment in support of ODF. The Polar Star completed the third of five planned phases of the service life extension project (SLEP), costing $15.6 million over a 132-day maintenance period.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is pleased to continue partnering with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Antarctic Program to enable a durable U.S. presence on Antarctica and across the Southern Ocean," said Vice Adm. Andrew Tiongson, Pacific Area commander. "Our commitment to the Antarctic region is unwavering, and we have been pleased to increase our maritime cooperation with like-minded members of the Antarctic Treaty, as well as investing in new technologies and vessels to ensure our presence is enduring.”

Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, provides Department of Defense support to the NSF and the USAP through ODF. Every year, a joint and total force team works together to complete a successful ODF season. Active, Guard, Reserve service members from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy work together to forge a strong JTF-SFA that continues the proud tradition of U.S. military support to the USAP. The U.S. Coast Guard provides direct logistical support to the NSF and maintains a regional presence that preserves Antarctica as a scientific refuge.