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. Dany P

    $6 a gallon!!! and it has to come by ice breaker!

    Montreal gas prices are $1.30/litre ($5.20/ Gallon) and it comes by boat/truck with no ice breakers.
    What a rip!

    January 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soldotna, AK

      Shhhh....all American libbies idolize Canada. You'll make them want to stay....LOL

      January 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • FrozenChosen


      The $6 a gallon is for the fuel that made it on previous summer deliveries, without the help of an icebreaker. That's the normal cost of fuel there. Now they are talking about the price going up to over $10/gallon. And it would be even more expensive if they had to fly it in.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      Our taxes make that possible Danny P.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • firefoxfan

      Where do you think your "free" health care comes from

      January 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Soldotna, AK

    All Alaskans know that the high fuel prices and weather are well worth it. I wouldn't leave if you paid me.

    January 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      Considering Alaska pays you to stay there I dont put much faith in the seriousness of your comment.

      January 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jan2128

      More federal dollars going to support a state that gets more taxpayer money than any other. Why not take that kick back money you alaskans receive and pay for your own problems instead of spending my money?

      January 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • FrozenChosen


      "Alaska pays you to stay there." Each Alaskan got just over $1100 last year, as the dividend from the state's oil wealth. That money just about covers half the yearly difference in gasoline cost between Anchorage (the cheapest in the state) and, say, Seattle. Add on to that all the extra money we pay for EVERYTHING, and people would be idiots to move up here for the paltry Permanent Fund Dividend.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Nathan, you're obviously ignorant on this issue. Alaska does NOT pay us to live here. Each resident who meets the eligibility requirements can apply for an annual Permanent Fund Dividend which this year was around $1,200. $100 per month is not enough to make someone stay here (unless it's a huge family already living off the government dole) so I ask that you educate yourself before making such knee-jerk comments.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tony O

    Having served on a Navy Icebreaker back in the 60's, this story brought back some great memories.

    January 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      Ah the daisy chain on the fantail.......

      January 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Shawn

    Just shut the town down.

    January 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      Why don't we start with your town?

      January 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Very intelligent comment...NOT! How about we close down YOUR town???

      January 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RodRoderick

    So let me get this straight... Republican's were stone walling the tax break deal because they want a pipeline from Alaska to the conntinetal states, yet Alaska has to import the same product by contracting a Russian Ship with the help of the Coast Guard???

    January 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      You're proof that you can only get so smart attending two years of community college.

      January 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • jk

      JuneCleaversBeaver– you are proof that preschool dropouts/fox news viewers are stupid even when living off socialIST security checks

      January 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bryan

    Just being a straight forward Canadian reading these comments...wow. Whatever happened to trying to helping people in need without getting so damn political all the time?? Don't get me wrong, we (Canada) have the same problems the US has and we are not perfect. No wonder this world is going to crap because all issues, no matter where you are now adays, some people spend so much time whining on the little things (politics, race, etc) when we as a "society" do not look at the bigger picture. Who gives a crap who is supplying the fuel, Nome needs fuel, lets help give them a hand.

    January 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oh for Pete's sake!

      Amen, Brian!

      January 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      Wow Bryan. Well said for someone who comes from a country where others think of you all as fat, lazy and stupid. Good on ya!

      January 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Roberts

      Well said!

      January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nome Alaska gal

      Thanks Bryan! We are a small town of about 3,300 people. We pay taxes, we have jobs and it is a place that we have chosen to live. Our fuel/gasoline is barged in every year and we do have storage tanks. Our winter this year has been harsh and cold. There are many fingers being pointed to both the fuel company and the native corp saying it's your fault, oh no it's your fault. The fact is, we need fuel, but I believe the fuel we already have in town should last until March. I appreciate the help and we will have to pay for this out of our own pockets in the long run. I am grateful for all the hard work that was put into getting the fuel up here to Nome. We are a small remote town, with a lot of friendly people, that is why I live here. It's quiet and far away from the crime and craziness of the big cities.

      January 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jk

      "Whatever happened to trying to helping people in need without getting so damn political all the time?"
      faux news taught some parasites in the US that only the rich need to get socialism and these preschool dropout buffoons just regurgitate those talking points here.

      January 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boom

      Nome Gal. How exactly does a whole town fail to have enough fuel on hand for winter? Sorry but it is not as if this type of weather is new to the area. Yes you may be getting alot of snow but tell me that is new? I am not condemning you or your plight but if i lived there I think I'd want to know who exactly is responsible for making sure a whole town doesn't run out of fuel.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nome Alaska gal

      🙂 please read the article....

      January 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jan2128

      Because Alaska isn't paying for that Coast Guard icebreaker, a few states in the lower 48 are. The coast guard should be charging Nome for the services. The citizens can take part of the $1174 they are each getting this year to cover the cost. Or, their state could show some leadership and invest the money in infrastructure so those of us down here do not have to keep paying the bills for people up there. ~$3.8 million the citizens of Nome are getting from their state to live there this year should about cover the bill. Why not buy some storage tanks for next year with the cash? Or how about investing in some ground source heating so you don't have to worry about running out of heating oil? Alaska, the biggest welfare state in the nation

      January 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Owen/Idaho

      Thank you Bryan....very well said! I don't understand people now days.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      Thank you Bryan. Amazing how people can turn EVERYTHING into a political issue.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nome Alaska gal

      jan2128 – why would the CG charge Nome? Do they charge everyone in the US for their services?

      January 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jan2128

      @NomeGal – How about the $1.84 you get for every $1 in federal taxes you pay (most recent data from 2005: http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/22685.html) . Some of us down here are getting a bit tired of subsidizing all you "freedom loving" states, especially when the state issues you a check to live there ($1174 for 2011 according to the funds website). How about paying your own way instead of looking for handouts from the rest of us. But I am sure you are more than happy to redistribute wealth from the 16 states are subsidizing your life(only 1 state is 1/1, the other 33 of you are takers). Your state could be spending the $820 million dollars from 2011 on (obviously) much needed infrastructure instead of cutting you each a check, but why do that when there is 16 states that will pay your way, right?

      January 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • jan2128

      Sorry, $760 million, not $820 million (http://www.pfd.state.ak.us/forms/2011Forms/2011DividendCalculation.pdf). The point still stands though...

      January 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nome Alaska gal

      jan2128 – aw shucks, don't be hatin... 🙂 I don't know how to respond to your comment. As a United States citizen and a Native American Eskimo, I am proud to know my country is helping us out of a tight spot.

      I hope that one day, you will see how great our county is in helping out it's citizens. Have a wonderful day.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      JuneCleaversBeaver: Thats funny cause thats how some of us Canadians think about some people from the US...Just saying

      January 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Boom, if you had actually READ the article, you would know that the last barge of the season was unable to reach Nome due to one of the largest stroms Alaska has ever seen. This wasn't someone's oversight. It was all Mother Nature's fault.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mark graham

    Where's that blond headed girl from Ice Road Truckers when you need her? Tennis shoes and all!

    January 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ES

    Too bad the vampires will already have taken over by the time they get there . . .

    January 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BriSoFla

    Why dont we just give Alaska BACK to Russia and "you betcha" Sarah Palin too!

    January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • jk

      The russians aren't stupid to take sarah Palin with Alaska only a saudi prince run network with one goal-to destroy america would

      January 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      The Palins might still own a home in Wasilla but most of their time is now spent at their new home in the Phoenix area and on the campaign trail in Iowa! And expect for her TP followers, the majority of Alaskans are not only exstatic she's a quitter but that feel she's a huge embarrassment to our great state.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Scott

    Dang! I hate it when Global Warming melts the polar ice caps and freezes entire towns.

    January 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      Me too. Luckily we decided it's not real so it should magically stop soon.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Me Here

    Breaker sailors back and ram!

    January 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Raxtich

    Cue Climate Change denier in 3..2..1

    January 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobby

    why can't sarah solve this problem?

    January 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • lroy

      Why doesn't everybody get their ice picks for one big dig?

      January 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Albert

    "where gas sells for almost $6 a gallon"
    And ... $6 a gallon gas is supposed to be a bad thing or something?
    I buy my gas for $8.50 a gallon (1.75 €/ltr)

    January 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      Clearly you do not live in the US

      January 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. thom

    I would think you would stockpile for the winter long before the storms hit or find a different way to do this. Doesn't seem to smart but then you know those ol republican sarah people, what else can you expect from their feeble minds.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
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