Icebreaker Polar Star leaves Seattle for Antarctica

VIDEO: Icebreaker Polar Star leaves Seattle for Antarctica

SEATTLE — America's only operating heavy icebreaker is on the way to Antarctica, planning to cut a path for supply ships to the McMurdo research station early in 2020.

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star left its home port of Seattle on Tuesday, with family members of the crew waving goodbye.

The ship is expected to return in March or April.

Content Continues Below

The departure comes two days before Thanksgiving.

"We celebrated early, so we'll see her for Easter, I think," said Sheila Stenberg, whose daughter Emily is on the crew right out of boot camp.

Emily's Stenberg's father served on the Polar Star's sister ship in Antarctica in 1989 and her brother worked on Operation Deep Freeze in 2015.

"It's really neat to see this and for our daughter Emily to be able to make this trip herself," said her father, Mike Stenberg.

A recent KIRO 7 story highlighted problems with the 43-year-old ship and the creative response by the crew to keep it going.

The Coast Guard and Navy are building the first Polar Security Cutter, which will replace the Polar Star in the mid-2020s.

More news from KIRO 7