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National Science Foundation HomeNational Science Foundation - Directorate for Geological Sciences (GEO)
Polar Programs (PLR)
design element
Division of Polar Programs

Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics (AIL)
Frequently Asked Question about the U.S. Antarctic Program
U.S. Antarctic Environmental Policy
President's Memordanum Regarding Antarctica (Memorandum 6646, February 1982)
U.S. Policy on Private Expeditions to Antarctica
View PLR Staff
U.S. Antarctic Policy
USAP stations & related facilities
bullet McMurdo Station
bullet Crary Science and Engineering Center
bullet Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
bullet Palmer Station
bullet Field Camps
USAP support resources
bullet USAP aircraft support
bullet USAP aircraft landing areas
bullet USAP ship support
bullet USAP traverse support
GEO Organizations
Atmospheric and Geospace Science (AGS)
Earth Sciences (EAR)
Ocean Sciences (OCE)
Polar Programs (POLAR)
Polar Programs Organizations
Antarctic Sciences (ANT)
Arctic Sciences (ARC)
Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics (AIL)
Polar Environment, Safety and Health (PESH)
U.S. Antarctic Program sites
USAP.gov — The U.S. Antarctic Program web portal
PolarIce (USAP Science Support Website)
USAP Marine Operations Services
Antarctic Treaty sites
U.S. Annual Report to the Antarctic Treaty
Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs
Antarctic Treaty Secretariat
Antarctic Treaty Committee for Environmental Protection
Polar Programs Information
Contact Polar Programs
Polar Programs Budget Information
Related Polar Links
Polar Programs Publications list
Philatelic mail
Polar Programs webmaster



Fuel tanker and USCG icebreaker at McMurdo ice pier.
The fuel tanker Maersk Peary approaches McMurdo Station ice pier, escorted by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) icebreaker Polar Star in January 2014. (NSF photo by Peter Rejcek.)

A Polar-class, America's most powerful icebreaker, operates annually in the Antarctic. The USCG Polar Star deploys to Antarctica to break a channel through McMurdo Sound and perform other logistics tasks. Glacier, an icebreaker built in 1955, served in Antarctica almost every year until it was decommissioned in 1987. The older Wind-class icebreakers served in Antarctica until the 1979-1980 season.

A Polar-class icebreaker is 122 meters long and displaces 13,400 metric tons. Its diesel engines provide 13,400 kilowatts for normal operations. When required for icebreaking, gas turbines can be operated to increase the power to nearly 45,000 kilowatts. In open water the ship cruises at 13 knots; maximum speed is 17 knots. The ship carries two helicopters. Crew size is 154; the ship can accommodate 20 scientists.

Recently, the National Science Foundation has also leased commerical icebreakers to help with channel breaking and tending operations.

Russian icebreaker Krasin in McMurdo Sound

Under contract to the U.S. Antarctic Program, Russian icebreaker Krasin opens a channel in McMurdo Sound. (NSF photo by Eric Hobday.)



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