The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star is sailing to Antarctica to help the trapped in the thick ice vessels Akademik Shokalskiy (Russian ice bound ship) and Xue Long (Chinese icebreaker). 3 governments (Australia, Russia and China) asked for aid. The Russian ship is stuck in the ice for days, the Chinese icebreaker came to free Akademik Shokalskiy, but also stuck in the ice. (According to official information the Chinese icebreaker broke free from the Antarctic ice and is now navigating in open waters.)
Polar Star was heading to the area anyway and will make an effort to break the ice and free the 2 trapped vessels. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter left Seattle and had plans to break the ice and refuel the U.S. Antarctic Program's McMurdo Station on Ross Island. There are fears that the two disabled vessels will not break the ice themselves and will stay a long time on the same place. Hopefully the aid is on its way.
Polar Star is preparing for the dangerous journey in Sydney and after loading enough supplies will depart to help the ships in trouble. The voyage of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter is 7 days according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The U.S. Coast Guard's Pacific commander F. Zukunft said:
"We are always ready and duty-bound to render assistance in one of the most remote and harsh environments on the face of the globe,"
Some days ago, 52 of the passengers of Akademik Shokalskiy were successfully transported to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis. The crew and the tourists had to abandon the ship because the unusual thick ice trapped the vessel for many days.
The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long came to free the Russian ice bound ship (without success), but a helicopter was sent to transport the 52 passengers to a safer place. The Chinese icebreaker is now in the same situation as the Akademik Shokalskiy. The two ships now hope to receive help or just to wait the ice to shift. The captain of Xue Long informed that there is no danger for the ship or the passengers for the moment. There are a lot of supplies and food.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter is a heavy icebreaker, 399-foot long and designed to sail with 18 knots (21 mph). The vessel is capable of sailing through 6 feet of ice, maintaining speed of 3 knots. The hull of Polar Start is reinforced and after freeing the two trapped ships will continue to its voyage to McMurdo Sound.