Final Update - Operation Deep Freeze
Greetings from Mobile, Alabama!!!
by LT Marshall Branch,
United States Coast Guard
I wanted to let everyone know that AVDET 157 returned safely to their home base on April 26th after a 5-day cross country flight from Seattle. The return trip from Antarctica was quite eventful. The POLAR SEA made port calls in Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia. While in Melbourne, we were invited by a local school to make a presentation on Coast Guard missions. After receiving the proper clearances, we flew one of our helicopters out to the Haileybury College athletic fields (it's a private school for Kindergarten through Middle School) and talked with all of the students. After the presentation, we hovered over the field and hoisted our rescue swimmer up to the helicopter. In Brisbane, we had the opportunity to go to the Crocodile Hunter's Animal Park. Steve Irwin was not there that day (ironically, he was in the USA), but it was great to see his zoo and watch the staff feed the crocodiles.
A Rescue Operation
As the POLAR SEA departed Australia for the long trip back to Seattle, we were requested to assist a vessel in distress in the South Pacific. Although it was over 1,000 miles away, we were the best source of assistance for the 64 people stranded at sea.
The TeTaobe was a 140 foot boat with missionary families on board. Their vessel broke down at sea and they were running out of food and water. In addition, some of their people were quite sick.
It took us over two days to get there, but we finally arrived on scene. POLAR SEA medical and engineering teams went aboard and assisted the stricken vessel. The engineering teams fixed their engines and radios and the medical teams stabilized a young girl who was very ill and treated an abscess on a toddler. The young girl who was ill needed to be taken to a hospital so we brought her aboard the POLAR SEA. As soon as we were within range, we loaded her into the helicopter and flew her to Canton Island, a tiny atoll in the Kirbati Republic of the South Pacific. A Coast Guard C-130 transport plane from Barber's Point, Hawaii flew all the way to Canton Island to pick her up and fly her to Western Samoa where she was treated by doctors and recovered. Interestingly enough, Dateline NBC is picking up this story. Not sure when it will air, but stay tuned!
Back in the U.S.A.
After the POLAR SEA arrived in western Washington State, we said our goodbyes and flew off the ship to Port Angeles, WA. We spent a couple of days in Port Angeles for maintenance, then we started our trip home. We stopped in Astoria, OR, North Bend, OR, Humboldt Bay, CA, then stayed in San Francisco, CA for the night. The next morning, we flew to Santa Maria, CA, Twenty Nine Palms, CA, and stayed in Phoenix, AZ. The next morning, fierce thunderstorms were pounding Texas and the gulf coast. Not sure that we would get too far, we left Pheonix for Las Cruces, NM. We ended up getting as far as Odessa, TX before we were forced to stop for the night. The next morning, the weather was slowly getting better. We stopped in Austin, TX for lunch, but had to stay the night in Houston, TX for maintenance. Finally, the following day we flew to Baton Rouge, LA and arrived in Mobile, AL around 4pm to the cheers of our families who were patiently awaiting our arrival.
Farewell & Future Plans
I want to thank all of the classrooms that participated in our voyage with us. You were all fantastic virtual shipmates and I thank you for your great questions and wonderful comments. I will be transferring to a new command in Traverse City, Michigan next month so this will be my last Polar Partnership. Other AVDET's in the future are planning partnerships so stay tuned. LT Gary Naus (gnaus [at symbol] atc.uscg.mil) is participating in a trip to the Arctic Circle that will include transit of the Panama Canal, visits to Greenland, eastern passage to the Arctic Ice Cap, transit north of Canada to the Bering Straits, and western passage back to Alaska. Should be interesting. I wish you all the best and in nautical tradition...I wish you fair winds and following seas Shipmates...
LT J. Marshall Branch
Polar Operations Division
U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Center
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