Ice-breaking ship gets fired up
Ice-breaking ship gets fired up In this Monday, Dec. 12, 2016 photo, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star rests by a dock in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The only U.S. ship capable of breaking through Antarctica’s thick ice is undergoing repairs in balmy Hawaii this week as it prepares to head south. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Ice-breaking ship gets fired up
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The only U.S. ship capable of breaking through Antarctica's thick ice is getting scrubbed down, fixed up and loaded with goods in balmy Hawaii as it prepares to head to the frigid south.
The voyage by Coast Guard cutter Polar Star comes as the U.S. looks to replace and expand its aging fleet of polar icebreakers. The U.S. wants to maintain a presence in the most remote corners of the world. The demand for icebreaking ships is expected to grow. That is because climate change melts sea ice and lures more traffic to northern Arctic waters.
"The specter in the future is more marine use in the Arctic, more shipping, more offshore development, more tourism," said Lawson Brigham. He is a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The Coast Guard needs to be able to enforce U.S. laws as well as search for and rescue people in the Arctic like it does in other waters, Brigham said. Though sea ice is melting faster than before, the Arctic Ocean is fully or partially covered by ice for about three-quarters of the year.
Now, the Seattle-based ship has stopped in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to stock up on food and fuel. It was scheduled to leave Dec. 19 to carve a channel through 30 miles of ice in Antarctica. That would allow ships to resupply a U.S. research center. The Polar Star has been delayed by last-minute repairs.
The Polar Star specializes in the Antarctic mission because it can handle the thicker ice. That leaves the jobs in the Arctic to a medium icebreaker. It is the cutter Healy.
The 40-year-old Polar Star was built to last only three decades of grinding through thick sheets of ice. It forces its way through by riding up on ice and crushing it. When it can't break through, it backs up and rams the ice.
Brigham said policymakers have debated boosting the icebreaker fleet for decades. Climate change adds a new element to the discussion.
More cargo ships have been taking Arctic routes as the planet warms. Last summer, a luxury cruise liner sailed to Nome, Alaska. Then it went farther north to become the largest ship to ever traverse the Northwest Passage. Melting ice also will attract those seeking to extract oil, metals and other natural resources.
The U.S. should be present in the northern and southern reaches of the planet as a global power, Brigham said.
Russia has 40 icebreakers. The country owns more than half of the Arctic Ocean coastline and operates over a much larger stretch of icy seas. Russia's fleet is primarily used to escort commercial ships. Coast Guard icebreakers only do so in emergencies, Brigham said.
Coast Guard Capt. Michael Davanzo is the Polar Star's commanding officer. He told reporters that the agency needs additional icebreakers partly in case something goes wrong.
"If we go down there on this trip and we run into problems, there's nobody down there who can come and help us," he said.
The Coast Guard has only one other heavy icebreaker, the Polar Sea. It also was built in the 1970s and isn't operational. The agency is using some of its parts to keep the Polar Star running.
The Coast Guard has said it needs three total heavy icebreakers. Those ships can bust through ice 6 feet thick. It also wants three other icebreakers that can break slightly thinner ice, like the Healy.
On the Polar Star's upcoming journey to Antarctica, 14 months' worth of food will be aboard for the crew. That is in case the ship gets stuck and needs to wait until next year's thaw to get out.
If that happens, some of the crew would be flown off the ship. Others would stay behind until the vessel is able to break its way out or get a tow when the weather warms.

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How can climate change impact tourism?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • cbrooke-dav
    1/05/2017 - 07:57 p.m.

    In response to "Ice-breaking ship gets fired up," I disagree that they should even be interfering with antarctica and the things in it. One reason I disagree is that I don't think that tourists she be going to antarctica. Another reason is that I don't think that we should be destroying any of the ice because their is nit as much ice as their used to be. It says in the article "The U.S. should be present in the northern and southern reaches of the planet as a global power, Brigham said".I don't thing that we should go their because it is the one place that we haven't totally destroyed. Even though they say is is totally good to go, I think that we should leave antarctica alone.

  • aidenm1-bur
    1/06/2017 - 01:08 p.m.

    Climate change can effect tourism because say if a glacier broke peace's of it could sink a tourist ship. that would also give us a reputation of icebergs sinking ships.

  • jordanb1-bur
    1/11/2017 - 12:52 p.m.

    The climate can make the sea melt and attract other ships that could make it a tourist location. The text stated, that the sea is melting faster that it has before which could cause more ships to come.

  • carmenh-orv
    1/12/2017 - 02:54 p.m.

    Climate change can impact tourism because people usually visit places for the weather and if the weather is not how they want it they will not go.

  • hlily-dav
    1/19/2017 - 05:08 p.m.

    In response to "Ice-breaking ship gets fired up," I agree that the U.S. should use it's ice-breaking ship. One reason I agree is that this will help the U.S. keep a presence in one of the most remote places in the world. By doing this the U.S. will maintain power, which is what every country seems to want. Another reason is that many people will start going to Antarctica, so it is important we get there first and obtain it's benefits. It says in the article "Melting ice also will attract those seeking to extract oil, metals and other natural resources." These natural resources are very beneficial to have. A third reason is that even a little control over Antarctica could be useful. Antarctica offers more shipping,more offshore development, and more tourism. More marine use in the Arctic is something many nations strive for. Even though, this could be risky for the members of the cost guard who are on this boat, I think it is a great idea to use the Polar Star.

  • tristene-bla
    1/27/2017 - 12:07 p.m.

    if all the ice melts then the people will not want to go see all the nature that lives on the ice. Or it will attract more people because we can sail a lot more boats around the ocean so more people will be there.

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