The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star reached a position of 78 degrees, 44 minutes, 1.32 seconds south latitude in February, about 500 yards from the edge of the ice shelf in Ross, further south than the current Guinness World Record holder.
Along the way, Polar Star sailed through waters previously charted as part of the pack ice that are now navigable waters. Today, portions of the Ross Ice Shelf diverge approximately 12 nautical miles from positions depicted on official charts. During Polar Star’s transit to and from Whale Bay,
The ship surveyed 396 nautical miles of the ice shelf for potential future navigational use. Crew members aboard the cutter are working with Guinness World Records staff to officially become the new record holders.
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The record is a significant achievement for a 46-year-old vessel that has been plagued by recent failures, including in 2019 the 150-member crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star battled a fire that broke out in the ship’s incinerator room about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
In 1997, CGC Polar Sea, Polar Star’s sister ship and former record holder, reached 78 degrees, 29 minutes south latitude. The Polar Sea has been out of service since 2010 due to the failure of five of its six main Alco diesel engines, making the Polar Star the only operational heavy icebreaker in the United States.
In 1908 Ernest Shackleton named Whale Bay after him on the Nimrod Expedition based on the many whales he and his crew sighted. Three years later, Roald Amundsen established a base camp in the bay, from which he successfully embarked on his effort to become the first person to reach the South Pole. Years later, US Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd established Little America in Whale Bay on his first, second, and third Antarctic expeditions, exploring over 60% of the Antarctic continent.
“Polar Star’s crew is proud to follow in the footsteps of legendary Antarctic explorers like Shackleton, Amundsen and Byrd,” said Captain William Woityra, Commanding Officer of Polar Star. “Even today, more than a century later, we continue this legacy of exploration, reaching new places and expanding human understanding of our planet.”