The U.S. Coast Guard is sending an icebreaking ship in an effort to free two vessels stuck in the Antarctic’s frozen waters.
The Cutter Polar Star was sent to the Antarctic region to help the Russian Akademik Shokalskiy and Chinese Xue Long, which are both wedged deep into thick sheets of ice, according to a Coast Guard statement. The U.S. ship is designed for open-water icebreaking, and has a specialized icebreaking bow.
Rescue operations have been ongoing since the Akademik Shokalskiy first sent a distress signal on Dec. 24. A helicopter on board the Xue Long transported 52 passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis on Friday.
The Cutter Polar Star was rerouted from a mission to break a navigational channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to eventually resupply the U.S. Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station on Ross Island, a research hub for the National Science Foundation.