USCG Cutter Polar Star returns to Seattle

Crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star enjoy a brief “ice liberty” on the Bering Sea in below-freezing temperatures on Jan. 30, 2021. The 45-year-old heavy icebreaker was underway to support national security objectives in Alaskan waters, including along the Maritime Boundary Line between the United States and Russia. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham/U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star returned to its homeport in Seattle on Saturday, Feb. 21, after a months-long Arctic deployment to provide security throughout the region, develop future Arctic sailors and gather high-latitude scientific data.

The Polar Star spent most of its patrol in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.  On Christmas Day, the crew traversed a historic winter latitude navigating through dense sea ice to patrol beyond 72 degrees latitude, further north than any U.S. surface asset ever traversed in the winter.   In mid-January, the Polar Star and a Russian Border Guard aircraft crew patrolled a portion of the 1,700-mile international maritime boundary line, through a mutual agreement to prepare for and reduce the impact of a potential natural or manmade maritime disaster.

“Spending a majority of the patrol navigating dense, constantly shifting sea ice, consistently below-zero temperatures and day-long darkness, the crew’s resilience was unyielding,” said Capt. Bill Woityra, commanding officer of the Polar Star. “With their tremendous effort and positive attitudes, we accomplished everything we set out to do and more.”

The crew made progress toward developing future icebreaker leadership by honing ice navigation proficiency and regional familiarity.  They also hosted scientists and researchers aboard to better understand Arctic operational capabilities and lessen the void of water data for these northern oceans.