January 10th, 2012
11:22 AM ET

Icebreaker, fuel tanker close in on icebound Alaskan town

A Coast Guard icebreaker and a tanker carrying 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products could arrive in icebound Nome, Alaska, as early as Thursday, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The Sitnasuak Native Corp. of Nome contracted the double-hulled, Russian-flagged tanker Renda to deliver the fuel products to the community of 3,600 on Alaska's west coast after a ferocious November storm prevented the last delivery of the season via barge and ice formed over the Bering Sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the cutter Healy, is escorting the fuel tanker through the ice-covered waters in the first-ever attempt to supply fuel to an Arctic Alaska settlement through sea ice.

The two-ship convoy was 97 miles from Nome early Tuesday, Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, told CNN.

The Healy battled through 50 miles of ice Monday, she said, stopping for crew rest and maintenance around 7:30 p.m. The journey was to resume at 7 a.m. local time Tuesday.

During the journey, the Healy has broken through ice ridges as high as 4 feet and plate ice up to 2 feet thick, Coast Guard Capt. Craig Lloyd, who is coordinating the mission, told CNN.

Francis said unmanned aircraft from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks equipped with ground-penetrating radar had flown over the ice, between the ships and Nome, and determined it was thinner than what the ships had been through so far.

The ships will have to break through about 300 miles of ice during the complete journey, the Coast Guard said.

The tanker will get to within about a half-mile of Nome harbor and transfer the fuel stocks to on-shore storage by hose, the Coast Guard said.

The cutter Healy was scheduled to return to its homeport of Seattle in December, but its mission was extended by several weeks to facilitate the fuel delivery.

Lloyd said Nome had enough fuel to last until about March, but the delivery was attempted now because it would have been even more difficult then.

There is no way to deliver fuel by land to Nome. If the Renda does not make it to Nome, officials would have to consider flying in fuel, an expensive proposition in a town where gas sells for almost $6 a gallon.

Post by:
Filed under: Alaska • Weather • Winter weather
soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    Sorry, Alaska, but I couldn't live there; I'm allergic to ice.

    Awesome picture...it made me shiver just looking at it!

    January 10, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. UncleDad

    The polar bears must be happy.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bah

    Damn. Bachmann quit – I'm sure this town was looking forward to $2 gas.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Orf

    Go Coasties!

    January 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Josh

    Wow, ice during the winter in Nome, AK? Who would have thought?

    January 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    But not to worry now that Todd Palin has endorsed Newt.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jk

    This is pure socialism Alaskan should not expect them to be sp0onfed by the gubernment. Sorry go ask Palin for further directives

    January 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I feel much more stupider for reeding yore comment

      January 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Your grammar is so bad it makes your comment illegible. Also, the subject matter of your comment is ridiculous. Pure socialism? Do you think before you just start typing things ... like 'guberment'?

      January 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      I can't decide which hurts my head more: the idea behind your comment or the language in which you attempted to deliver it.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 3fingeredjack

    It is sad to think what with all the money flowing through Homeland Defense, we can't fund the Coast Guard so that we have a polar operating capability. The USCG has been saddled with more and more responsibility and funded at lower levels nearly every year. Maybe if they cut the number of ceremonial military bands, which cost us about 325 million a year, they could afford to keep at least two ice breakers at sea.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vern

    Should have had the idiarod dog teams pull fuel sleds to Nome this year. A true play on history.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jk

    Newt can send one of the the wives he cheated on to remove all the ice afterall toady endorsed him

    January 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ultimate Troll x5000 Super Duty V2.01

    I used to live in alaska. Then I took an arrow to the knee.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ken

    Ice so thick that fuel couldn't be delivered to Nome in November as planned. The Bering Sea so thick with ice that an oil tanker gets stuck. Whatever happened to global warming??

    January 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      This is global warming. Again, I'm sorry our public education system failed you. Please don't give up though. Try repeating the third grade.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      It wasn't the ice in November that caused the fuel delivery delay, but rather the massive winter hurricane-force storm that prevented the barges from arriving before freeze-up.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. liberator

    It looks like global warming is going to freeze them to death. I thought we were supposed to have an ice-free arctic by now. After procreating 5 times and flying private jets all over the world, Al Gore said "the science is over", so it must be true.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • derp

      An unusually powerful storm ( a byproduct of global warming ) cut off the last barge of the year before the annual (which means it happens every year) ice formation (which is smaller than it used to be as a byproduct of global warming) across the Bering Sea.

      The same people who are telling not to be concerned about climate change are the guys who told you the economy fine in the spring of 2008.

      When people who stand to make tons of cash while you get shafted tell you everything is fine, you are probably about to get shafted.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      You were so proud of yourslef when you made that comment. Yeah! Screw Al Gore!

      Then someone with half a brain showed you how stupid you really are. Oh no! Fox News failed you again...

      January 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • A Nomeite

      ice-free Arctic in January? Do you clowns even understand the difference between summer and winter? There always is ice this time of year in the Bering Sea, but it is in fact thinner than it used to be and forms later in fall.

      There was no planned fuel delivery in November. The media all get it wrong. The barge was supposed to be here in Nome in October, as it is every year. Instead, it was delayed for reasons that had nothing to do with "The Big Storm". We always get storms in November, and shipping always ends by late October. Someone dropped the ball delivering fuel in October as it should have been, and now the "big storm" is used as an excuse.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • M3NTA7

      Hi 'A Nomeite' I hope you stay warm this winter! Cheers

      January 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cyrus

      You are not very bright, are you? Graduate of the Beck University? Thought so.

      January 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      liberator: I'm so sorry that our public school system failed you. You really do deserve a third grade education at a bare minimum.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bobcat (in a hat)©

    Is that a time lapse photo drag race ? CG has the lead.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. iduna

    darn global warming anyways

    January 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7