Arctic & Antarctica
Karen Kutkiewicz gives her 2-year-old daughter, Sarah, a kiss after getting off the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star in Seattle on Monday following a more than 100-day deployment. She also greeted her husband and... (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Polar Star icebreaker’s crew returns to Seattle with tales of curious penguin, rugged seas, fire aboard ship

The ship was on a mission to resupply Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. The 150 crew members were reunited with family and loved ones Monday morning.

They took a morale-boosting swim near the equator, rubbed elbows with a curious Emperor penguin and tossed footballs over Antarctic ice.

For the 150 crew members of the Polar Star icebreaker, which each year carves a route to resupply Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, these were the highlights of their journey to the bottom of the world.

But the crew also had to manage rugged seas in a vessel nicknamed the “Polar Roller,” put out an onboard fire and spend more than three months away from home, and with limited communication to their families.

During their journey, one of the ship’s two evaporators to make drinking water failed, its electric system began to smoke and scuba divers had to repair the shaft that drives one of its three propellers.

On Monday, after more than 100 days away, the crew returned the aging Polar Star to Coast Guard Base Seattle — its home port. A crowd of family and friends cheered, hugged and cried as their loved ones stepped back on dry land.

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