SEATTLE — The icebreaker Polar Star was 1,000 miles out of its home port of Seattle last December, three days into its yearly voyage to resupply scientific bases in Antarctica, when a powerful swell hit its bow and flooded the deck.
The ship shuddered.
The roar of the ventilators in the galley quit as Joseph Sellar, a stocky 25-year-old Coast Guard culinary specialist from New Hampshire, watched seawater explode from the ceiling.
He lunged toward a switch to close the overhead vents. With a loud pop, an outlet ejected a purple spark.
"Are we sinking?" asked a petty officer on temp duty from Virginia.
Sellar knew better.
"Calm down," he said, whipping out his cellphone to record the gusher.
The United States spends $2 billion a day on the most advanced military ever assembled, with more aircraft carriers, fighter planes and nuclear submarines than any other nation. The Pentagon intends to develop a space fleet of orbiting lasers, missile sensors and satellites.
The U.S. Coast Guard on April 23, 2019 tapped VT Halter Marine, Inc. to build, for $750 million, the service's first new heavy icebreaker in four decades.
With the contract award, the Coast Guard finally is getting serious about strengthening its presence at Earth's rapidly-melting poles. Human industry adds carbon to the atmosphere that traps heat and causes rapid change in the global climate.
Coast Guard cutter Polar Star crew members on the ice about 13 miles from McMurdo Station in Antarctica, January 26, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard/Fireman John Pelzel0
During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the U.S. Coast Guard's only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.