Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Collector's Item

 

Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Oakes, Petty Officer 3rd Class Augustin Foguet and Seaman Manon Mullen were recognized for their quick-thinking and ingenuity that helped save the mission of the nation's only heavy icebreaker during a recent deployment to Antarctica. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

On Craigslist in Seattle, at press time, one could buy a 1976 Chevy Monza project for $700, and a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible in original condition for $16,950. Both of these 40-year-old vehicles were fine in their day, but neither the $700 project nor the original condition collector should be considered reliable enough in 2016 to be your daily driver.

If you are relying on either of these, you should have a crew of well-trained and responsive mechanics ready to step in, should emergencies arise, which they surely will.

The Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star, also built in 1976, has such a crew. Late last month, the US Coast Guard's top officer recognized three of them for their quick-thinking and ingenuity that helped save the mission of the nation's 40-year-old heavy icebreaker during a recent deployment to Antarctica.

US Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft visited with the crew of the Polar Star and presented Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Oakes of Stratford, Conn., Petty Officer 3rd Class Augustin Foguet of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Seaman Manon Mullen of Honolulu with a Coast Guard Unit Commendation Award for their efforts during two separate Antarctic deployments.

Foguet, a damage controlman, and Mullen, a deck hand, helped repair the cutter's thrust bearing bracket after it suffered a catastrophic failure while the cutter was in 6- to 8-foot thick ice in Antarctica in late January.

The thrust bearing bracket is a series of beams about the size of an SUV that hold up the cutter's propeller shaft.

The crew led a 36-hour long repair to fix the bracket, which had become structurally unstable and could not safely support the weight of the shaft. Foguet was part of team that crawled into the cramped spaces to weld the structure back together. Mullen helped prepare the area for welding, conducted watches to prevent fire from the around-the-clock welding operation and assisted with cleaning the area in preparation for operations.

Oakes, an electrician's mate aboard the Polar Star, used a surfboard repair kit to fix one of the cutter's generators in mid-December after the system shorted and began smoking. The vessel had lost power to one of the propellers en route to Antarctica, and the crew could not get specially-designed replacement parts for the 40-year-old generator. Oakes used one of his shipmate's surfboard repair kits to fabricate a new replacement part, allowing the Polar Star's crew to continue their mission.

The crew of the Polar Star responded to four general emergencies during their most recent deployment to Antarctica, including three fires and one major lube oil leak.

Polar Star was officially reactivated in 2013 after a 6-year hiatus, and serves as the country's only heavy icebreaker. Sister Polar Sea will likely never return to active status.

We join Admiral Zukunft in congratulating Petty Officer Oakes, Petty Officer Foguet and Seaman Mullen on their efforts to keep the vessel operational and on mission, but isn't it time the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth had a reliable Arctic daily driver?

Chris can be reached at chris@pacmar.com

 
 

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