A Seattle-based U.S. Coast Guard cutter completed a rescue operation Sunday of a fishing vessel that was trapped in Antarctic ice for two weeks.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star rescued the Antarctic Chieftain, an Australian-flagged vessel that had damaged three of its four propeller blades in the ice 900 miles northeast of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The operation spanned more than 860 miles and required the 150-person Polar Star crew to break through 150 miles of ice and navigate around icebergs, according to the Coast Guard.
The Polar Star navigated through whiteout conditions, high winds and extreme ice conditions during the five-day operation, the Coast Guard said. Once the heavy ice-breaker reached the 207-foot Chieftain, the fishing vessel had to be towed through 60 miles of ice into open water.
“There were some very happy sailors aboard Antarctic Chieftain upon our arrival,said Capt. Matthew Walker, the commanding officer of Cutter Polar Star. “The ice conditions that we found the fishermen in were dire, more so if Antarctic Chieftain had to stay much longer.”
The crew of the Polar Star, the nation’s only heavy icebreaker capable of operating in thick Antarctic ice, will continue its journey home to Seattle, the Coast Guard said.