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News Release 11-173

NSF Signs Agreement to Use Russian Icebreaker for Critical Antarctic Resupply and Refueling Mission

Icebreaker will create channel allowing annual refueling and resupply of two U.S. stations in Antarctica

Photo of Russian icebreaker that will create a channel to support two U.S. stations in Antarctica.

Russian icebreaker that will create a channel to support two U.S. stations in Antarctica.

August 25, 2011

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced it has reached an agreement with a Russian company to charter a diesel icebreaker to create a channel through the sea ice of Antarctica's McMurdo Sound that will allow the annual refueling and resupply of two U.S. stations in Antarctica.

NSF has signed a one-year contract, with an option for additional years, with the Murmansk Shipping Company to use the Canadian-built icebreaker, Vladimir Ignatyuk, to create a channel into NSF's McMurdo Station and to escort resupply and refueling ships.

The refueling and resupply are critical to the Presidentially mandated mission of the U.S. Antarctic Program--which NSF manages--to maintain an active and influential national presence on the southernmost continent, by supporting a comprehensive science program and operating three year-round research stations. Delivery of fuel and supplies is critical to two of those three stations, in particular: McMurdo, on Ross Island and Amundsen-Scott South Pole.

Without the annual resupply mission--and in particular the delivery every year of roughly 5 million gallons of fuel to support each year's activities--the science mission would have to be severely curtailed.

Earlier this summer, the Swedish government announced that it would not, as it has done in previous years, be able to allow NSF to use its icebreaker, Oden, to escort the annual resupply and refueling missions.

NSF officials, working with officials in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the State Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard, have since been actively pursuing alternatives to Oden in the wake of the Swedish government's announcement.

Ignatyuk currently provides icebreaking service to other National Antarctic programs, including the Indian Antarctic Program. The multi-year contract with Murmansk Shipping Company will insure that an icebreaking vessel is available to the U.S. Antarctic Program until the U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, which is undergoing an extensive refit, is available for service in 2014.


Media Contacts
Debra Wing, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-5344, email:
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

Program Contacts
Peter West, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7530, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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