Commissioned in 1976, CGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, Wash. One of only two polar icebreakers in the U.S.fleet, the Polar Star is homeported in Seattle, Washington. She has exceptional hull design, power, strength and weight and uses a number of automation systems and low maintenance materials to reduce staffing requirements.
Polar Star's three shafts are turned by either a diesel-electric or gas turbine power plant. Each shaft is connected to a 16-foot(4.9-meter) diameter, four-bladed, controllable-pitch propeller.The diesel-electric plant can produce 18,000 shaft horsepower(13,425 kilowatts) and the gas turbine plant a total of 75,000shaft horsepower (55,925 kilowatts).
With an icebelt that is 1-3/4 inches thick, the Polar Star has sufficient hull strength to absorb the high-powered ice ramming common to her operations. The hull strength is produced almost entirely from the massive internal support structure. Polar Star's hull shape is designed to maximize icebreaking by efficiently combining the forces of the ship's forward motion, the downward pull of gravity on the bow, and the upward push of the inherent buoyancy of the stern. The curved bow allows Polar Star to ride up on the ice; then the bow is levered through the ice like a giant sledgehammer.
Polar Star has other unique engineering features designed to aid in icebreaking. An installed heeling system can rock the ship to prevent getting stuck in the ice. The system consists of three pairs of connected tanks on opposite sides of the ship. Pumps transfer a tank's contents (35,000 gallons, 133 kiloliters) to an opposing tank in 50 seconds and generate 24,000 foot-tons (64,800 kilowatt-seconds) of torque on the ship. That goes a long way in rocking Polar Star loose from any tight spots.
Duty on an icebreaker is long and strenuous, especially when it involves being away from homeport for up to eight months out of the year. The Polar Star's crew of 15 officers and 126 enlisted are comforted with four lounges, a library, a gymnasium, and a small ship's store. The ship also has a U.S. Post Office, satellite pay telephones, amateur radio equipment, photo lab, and movie library.
Polar Star carries two helicopters during major deployments. They support scientific parties, do ice reconnaissance, cargo transfer, and search and rescue as required. The Aviation Detachment comes from the Polar Operations Division at Coast Guard Aviation Training Center, Mobile, Alabama.
Polar Star has a variety of missions while operating in polar regions. During Antarctic deployments, our primary missions include breaking a channel through the sea ice to resupply the McMurdo Research Station in the Ross Sea. Resupply ships use the channel to bring food, fuel, and other goods to make it through another winter. In addition, to these duties, Polar Star also serves as a scientific research platform with five laboratories and accommodations for up to 20 scientists. The "J"-shaped cranes and work areas near the stern and port side of ship give scientists the capability to do at-sea studies in the fields of geology, vulcanology, oceanography, sea-ice physics and other disciplines.
Operations in the remote, hazardous and unforgiving polar regions make it necessary for the crew of Polar Star to be highly self sufficient. The crew consists of personnel trained in navigation, engineering, welding, machinery repair, electronics, boat handling, firefighting, damage control, diving, medicine, and a wide range of other specialized skills.