You may remember the article I wrote late last year about the United States Coast Guard’s Icebreaker, Polar Star, heading to the Arctic this past winter for the first time in 40 years, rather than on its usual, annual mission to break an opening in the ice to the American scientific base at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica to resupply the base. Well, the Polar Star returned to its Seattle homeport in February after successfully completing that history-making trip. This video was done by one of the local Seattle news stations when the Polar Star returned.
This whole trip was undertaken in the middle of the COVID pandemic, so these Coasties had to observe COVID prevention practices, including isolating themselves as a crew for two weeks before the ship left port.
The long sail into the Arctic had several purposes. They were, among other important things, “showing the flag” up in those waters for the first time in decades. During the course of the mission, they had some positive interactions with Russian fishermen, and they conducted several pre-planned scientific studies. But it was very important that they made it known that American interests in the Arctic, as an Arctic nation, are clear and present.
One of the things they experienced up in the far North was that, because it was winter, they went for many days in a row never seeing a sunrise, sailing in perpetual nighttime conditions. They made it as far North as 72 degrees N, a historic accomplishment, as that was the furthest north any other surface ship had ever been.
The Polar Star is not a small ship, but they must have felt awfully small, alone, and isolated up there in the cold vastness of the huge Arctic Sea. Despite that, the crew of the Polar Star Icebreaker took advantage of the time to conduct various important training exercises, including military training, and conducted a number of important scientific research projects.
When the Polar Star returned to homeport in Seattle, the crew was told that they would be given the opportunity to get their first COVID vaccines as soon as they arrived in port. 99% of the crew indicated that they were going to take advantage of that opportunity and did.
The crew of the Polar Star had to be away from their families just like the crew of any Coast Guard or Navy ship that conducts long cruises, which are difficult and important missions. That fact included extra issues for the crew of the Polar Star this time because of the exigencies that the COVID pandemic has brought upon all of us. For example, you’ll hear one of the officers of the Polar Star thanking her husband for taking over all the roles of parenting, including the homeschooling of their children, who were unable to attend in-person classes during this time.
It is a matter of fact that, for every active-duty servicemember, there is a family at home that must carry on all the duties that go with parenting while their spouses are on duty. The sacrifices of military service are many-layered. They are borne by the military member and by their family back home. We must never forget that.
The United States Coast Guard is our smallest service, but what it does and the variety of its missions are as important to the nation as any of the other military services. What the crew of the Polar Star has accomplished on this rare mission to the Arctic carries a great deal of importance in both scientific research and in “showing the flag” in those Arctic Sea waters.
The Veterans Site expresses its pride and thanks to the crew of the USCG Icebreaker, Polar Star. Thank you for your skill and your commitment to excellence in all that you do. The Polar Sea is a noble ship. She is old, but she continues to perform her duties well because of the quality of her crews. Semper Paratus to all!Whizzco