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.

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Filed under: Alaska • Weather • Winter weather
soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. rock woman

    Cheer and applaud the crews of the Healy and the Renda for efforts both heroic and vital!

    January 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chromedbustop

      Can we please stop overusing the word "hero" and it's variations. These guys are doing some good, hard work yes but it's hardly heroic. It actually is, believe it or not, possible to recognize the work that people do without anointing them to some sort of legendary status.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • tonysgirl1959

      Wow, Chromed...who peed in YOUR Cheerios? If people want to call someone a hero, let them! Get over it. Arogant.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Chrome, risking their own lives in such severe conditions in order to bring much needed fuel to Nome IS a heroic effort!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jerome Horowitz

    If they ran on solar, they wouldn't need the oil for heat and light. But I'm just dreamin'....

    January 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • zach

      Solar power doesn't work during the polar winter, there's no sunlight...

      January 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam


      January 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      Have you ever heard that the sun does not rise in northern Alaska in the winter. You have heard about the midnight sun I suppose. Well, there is the winter equal that is the land of the mid-day darkness. Solar is not possible in the Alaska winter.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim p.

      Solar? Hello, this is Alaska in winter. You're not just dreaming, you got into the really good stuff last night I htink. 🙂

      The highest the sun gets is maybe 35 degrees above the horizon in summer and in winter, probably less than twenty degrees so even on sunny days there's not a lot of energy making it to ground level.

      A nuclear reactor would be a much better choice.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • mk

      Solar power in the arctic during the winter months. Please go back and review your geography. The sun barely comes over the horizon there during the winter

      January 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • A Nomeite

      a bit of geography: Nome has no polar night, as it is quite a bit below the Arctic Circle. On the shortest day (Dec 21), we get 4 hours of the sun above the horizon, but because of the shallow angle of sunset/rise, that means about 6.5 hrs of daylight. The longest day, June 21, has the sun above the horizon for 20 hours but it never gets dark.

      Because dawn and dusk are so prolonged and it stays light long after the sun sets or before it rises, we actually get MORE daylight on a year-round basis than places in the lower 48. However, the shallower angle of the sun means that there is less solar energy. Even so, solar panels work quite well here, except maybe a few weeks during the dead of winter. By March, we'll have 12-14 hours of daylight, with the sun very strong and reflecting off the snow, which makes for a very high input to solar panels. There are a lot of local homes and a few businesses that supplement their energy supply with solar panels.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Noe

    I don't feel sorry for any of those people if the shipment doesn't arrive. Why do you choose to live in the middle of nowhere?

    January 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      You're an insensitive jerk. Why can't they live there? Some people prefer cold, some warm, but it's none of your business why they live somewhere. I could say the same thing about any other state in the nation. Every place has it's positives and negatives, but you're too simpleminded to get that.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • dun

      To get away from people like you maybe?

      January 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alphamale13

      To get away from negative know it all people like you Noe. How would you like it if they said the same about New orleans after Katrina, or New York after 9/11??? People help people in this country, we are Americans and we love different ways of living and in different places. Who are you to talk down on someone because of where they live?

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

      Dear Jack, If you choose to live in CA, expect earthquakes. If you live in New Orleans, prepare to be washed away. If you live in Mexico City, prepare to suffer the same fate as Pompeii... If you live in Alaska, expect to freeze to death in the winter. It's a risk you take. Don't like it? Move to Texas...

      January 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim p.

      Either because they were born there or because it was as far away from people like you as they could get and still be in North America?

      January 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      AlphaMale13, People *did* say the same thing about New Orleans after Katrina. Some people just don't care about anyone else's problems but expect the world to come to their rescue.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Because most of them have lived there all their lives, Alaska Natives have been in these areas for thousands of years. It's part of their heritage.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • fiveacestx

      @ S Kyle – Move to Texas? It's 110 in the summer with raging fires everywhere.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruAmerikan

      Yeah, the only safe place to live is the Mid-West, no earthquakes, hurricanes, the snow isn't too bad...see? The perfect place to live....OH CRAP!!! HERE COMES A TORNADOE!!! Better head down to the storm cellar.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      Noe: Did you choose your geographical location upon birth? If so bravo to you! The rest of us humans grew up where we were born and built a life there. I didn't like where I lived so I worked hard to move. Imagine trying to do that when you live in AK.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Why do YOU choose to live where you do? Stupid argument!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tim

    How about doing a humanitarian gesture and give them the fuel for free. What a greedy world we live in.

    January 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mile High Pro

      That would be a kind gesture from a country that already can't pay it's bills...

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

      Why free? Don't the good people of Alaska get a couple two or three thousand a year from the state's oil revenues?

      January 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Bob

      How nice, Tim! Then, we could be sure we sprinkle it with pixie dust! Wheeeee!!

      January 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?

      Well, they're already getting the services of a Coast Guard ship, and the who knows how many folks working aboard it. They won't pay for that. Also, how much free stuff are YOU sending to them? That's what I thought.

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

      We pay our bills you idiot. Debt doesn't mean you can't pay bills.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colleen

      People in Alaska get a dividend each year yes. but it is NOT the two or three thousand dollars most who do not live in Alaska think Alaskans get.

      The community of Nome is strong in their beliefs. How would you like to live someplace where a gallon of milk goes for 6 dollars and a gallon of gas goes for 9.

      What is being done to help the community does not happen every year. Normally supplies are brought in for them to make it throughtout the winter months, this is just an odd year. For all the neysayers, I say, buck up, go live in Nome for a year, see how it feels and what it is like.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Vatoloke, if you think we get $3K per year for living here, you're completely uneducated about the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend. We did top $3K once while Palin was Governor but that was due to an extra $1,200 Energy Rebate she included and we were taxed on that rebate (and our PFDs) by Uncle Sam come April 15. It's NOT free money!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rick101

    It would seem like they would have built storage facilities that they could fill during the more temperate season to accommodate their fuel needs throughout the winter.

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

      "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." Can't read huh?

      January 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • InTheKnow

      The entire Nome area is permafrost. It would be very difficult to develop tanks that could hold a large amount of fuel without sinking into the ground.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • robotman

      The story said they missed their last delivery of the season (November), due to storms and ice. There are several very large storage areas in Nome, but when you miss a delivery that would have kept you in your safe zone, there's not much else you can do.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • TNPatriot

      Sorry Rick, but if you had actually read the story and watched the videos you would know that they DO have storage facilities and they DO normally haul it in during the summer. A series of occurrences by people outside of Nome delayed the shipment until it was too late.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chromedbustop

      Not to mention that it states in the article that the town has enough fuel to get them through till March, they're just doing it now because it's easier then if they were to attempt it then.

      Goodness me can we read an entire article?

      January 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    I wonder if Rick Santorum's fecal froth can be used to power anything?

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

      lol don t know .. i woulnt use him for fertilizer

      January 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sarah


    January 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. F


      January 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ex-Coastie

    CNN might want to fact check. The Healy is not the Coast Guard's only ice breaker. It may be the only one available but the Coast Guard has more than one since it operates all US flagged ice breakers.

    January 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • TNPatriot

      In one of the videos CNN stated that the Healy is the only ARTIC Ice Breaker. I caught that too, but the video report did clarify that, so the fact checking WAS done.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Click the link where it says 'U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the cutter Healy.'

      Notice it says "operating," and that link clarifies that "The nation's two heavy polar icebreakers - the Polar Star and the Polar Sea - are out of commission, with the Polar Sea unlikely to see service again."

      January 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hey You

      The Polar Sea has been decommisioned.
      The Polar Star needs $$ for a refit and is in "caretaker status". The USCG expects the Polar Star to be reactivcated in 2013.
      ==> The Healy is the only one in operation.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. raul

    free oil? thats not capatalism thats socialism. if you want oil your gonna pay for it.. like it or not .. lol humanatarianism please. "sarcasm" . america is quid pro quo on everything.

    January 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim Bob

    Our tax dollars paying so a Russian ship can bring oil to someone that needs to either move south or suck it up? Are you kidding me?!?

    January 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?

      Our tax dollars are not paying the Russian ship, the tribe is. Just like my tax dollars don't ship your gas to your town. True, the tribe may be receiving some tax money, but since we took almost all their land away from them and they're paying $6 plus per gallon, I'd say they deserve it.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Guest

    Why is gas $6.00/ gallon in Alaska? Shouldn't it be cheaper since the state produces oil?

    January 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. F

      Since most cars run on gas (not crude oil), they need to have ready access to a refinery. You can't just pump crude out of the ground and put it in your tank.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • max

      gotta refine it and ship it. it doesnt come out of the ground as gasoline...

      January 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Alaska produces heavy crude which is manily refined into aviation fuel. At one time we had two working refineries but it's actualy cheaper to ship the crude to the Lower 48, refine it, and then ship it back up than it is to retrofit the existing refineries to allow gasoline production.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mr. F

    They need to burn more of that petroleum, to produce more CO2, to melt all of that sea ice.

    January 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Recovering Republican

    Where is Balto when you need him??? How come Russians are saving Americans, instead of (I don't know, maybe) Americans. Alaska is beautiful, IN JUNE!!!

    January 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TheDon

    Looks like Global Warming is falling down on the job.

    January 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sensisence

      It's 56 degrees in Chicago today, 8 inches of snow fell in Midland Tx yesterday. The only thing falling is your house of cards comment

      January 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jamie

    We need Balto.

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