Coast Guard dispatched to help free ship stranded in ice

Washington (CNN)A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is on its way to try to free an Australian fishing boat trapped in a block of ice 900 miles northeast Antarctica.

The Polar Star, a Coast Guard cutter was en route to its home port in Seattle when it was contacted by the Rescue Coordination Center in New Zealand about the fate of the Antarctic Chieftain from Australia, and its 27 crew members, after that vessel lost the ability to maneuver following damage to three of its four propellers on Tuesday.
"The seas of Antarctica are treacherous and unforgiving," U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Charles Ray said in a press release out Wednesday night from the Coast Guard. "This incident is a sobering reminder of the importance of the U.S. icebreaker fleet as we see increased human activity in the Polar Regions."
Ray is the commander of Coast Guard operations in the Pacific.
    According to the Coast Guard, the Polar Star was diverted to aid the Antarctic Chieftain, following the completion of a mission at McMurdo Station in Antarctica where the 150-member crew provided military logistical support to a program managed by the National Science Foundation.
    To reach the Antarctic Chieftain, the Polar Star will have to break through several miles of ice that in some cases runs nine feet deep amid winds that may reach 35 miles per hour the Coast Guard said.
    Once free, the Antarctic Chieftain will be towed by the Janas, a fishing vessel from New Zealand to the nearest safe harbor.
    The 339-foot Polar Star is the only heavy icebreaker in the Coast Guard fleet capable of operating in the deep ice of Antarctica for freeing ice-bound ships like the Antarctic Chieftain, or clearing the route to re-supply McMurdo Station.
    "The considerable geographic distances and extreme environmental conditions make this a complex rescue mission; however, we're confident in our ability to reach the Antarctic Chieftain," Polar Star Capt. Matthew Walker said in statement provided by the Coast Guard.
    This is not the first time the Polar Star has been requested to help a distressed vessel in the waters of Antarctica.
    In January 2014, the cutter was deployed to help break through ice that had ensnared the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy and China's Xue Long and left them temporarily stranded.
    The Polar Star is expected to meet the Antarctic Chieftain at approximately 10:00 p.m. EST Thursday.