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. Mike

    OBVIOUSLY, it's global WARMING causing all that ice! Somebody please send Al Gore up there to check things out! Along the way, he can stop by Cordova, Alaska which just reported a record 18 feet of snow. My, my it must really be melting fast these days.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob


      January 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Polopoint

      Fool -you don't understand global warming or climate change at all now, do you? Type away . . .

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

      *Yawn*... another clueless conservative... No wonder this nation is in such bad shape.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Learn to not fail...

      Anyone who understands anything about climatology would not be calling it global warming, scientists have stopped calling it global warming and call it global climate change because its effect is not only warming of the earth. What climate change actually does is make the weather more extreme more frequently aka more major storms, more temperature records more frequently etc.

      Also here is a counter to your close minded argument, here in Michigan on Jan 10th it reached 50 degrees as our high, that is 19 degrees warmer than average, we have had this unseasonable warm weather almost all winter so far with a few snowstorms that drop some snow, and then it all melts away. Simply put we are experiencing temperatures far from the norm more frequently.

      Now shut up and go put your helmet back on

      January 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • ic32teeth

      Mike you are right on target. Please watch the movie "Day after Tomorrow" This scenerio will play out for us soon. Al gore will mostly likely give everyone an update on the progression of global warming this summer. I hope things have calm down in Alaska...

      January 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinking7

      Yes, this is global warming. Warming of the planet does cause extreme weather such as what has happened in Alaska. Might want to do some research to try to understand it better.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikedeang

      lol at every time there's cold weather it provides the 'proof' that these clowns need to remain ignorant to rigorous science.....way to be a throwback to a simpler more ignorant time if that makes you feel better about yourself....

      January 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Learn About It Before You Comment

      Mike, you do realize that what global warming does is shift weather patterns drastically right? It can make weather extreme, or cause drought in normally wet areas, and flooding in normally dry areas. It doesn't make everything warmer. That's what idiots who don't do research and regurgitate talking points say.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Today, Not Tomorrow

      Ahhh the argument about global warming and the extreme weather... Although these scientific theories have merit, I really think that we have enough to worry about with the economy and foreign policy. If we don't get things together soon, no one is going to be around to enjoy the extent of these global climate issues anyways.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff S

      Mike, to clear up what appears to be some confusion you're having on the facts here, the average daily temperature has steadily risen over the past 160 years, a grand total of about 0.5 degrees Celsius. That is indisputable scientific fact. What that means is that on an average 26 degree day 160 years ago, water would freeze. Today, that same day would be something like 27 degrees instead, and water would still freeze (the freezing point of water is 32 degrees fahrenheit.) To further complicate matters, Earth is large, and the temperature -believe it or not- isn't the same everywhere. In some places, the average temperature from one year to the next is warmer, in others colder.

      If we could just get kids to pay a little bit of attention in 1st-grade math, and 5th grade science, there wouldn't be people who think that a 0.5 degree celsius global average temperature increase means the entire world turns into a giant sweltering steamroom. Parents need to take more responsibility for their children's education. Its shocking that people are smart enough to use the Internet, but can't comprehend basic math and science.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Take your own advice.....

      @Learn to not fail, take your own advice:

      1-1-1946 40.9f
      1-2-1946 40.3f
      1-3-1946 54.1f
      1-4-1946 59.5f
      1-5-1946 63.7f
      1-6-1946 67.1f
      1-7-1946 73.0f
      1-8-1946 71.3f
      1-9-1946 57.2f
      1-10-1946 51.1f

      Reference: http://www.almanac.com/weather/history/MI/East%20Lansing/1946-01-08

      January 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikedeang

      priceless....someone call the scientific community and tell 'em we figured it out and that they're mistaken....global warming is a sham.....and 'Take your own advice' has the indisputable data to prove it...so dere you over educated scientists!!!! we didn't need no stinking education to figure it out eder.....

      January 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. john

    They need to have the fuel to use on snow mobiles and 4 wheelers. They receive a check from the government just to live there.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mook

      You are clearly from the lower 48. Yes, the fuel is for their snow machines and most importantly, fuel for their homes, but they don't use snow machines for joy riding. Your Ford Tough truck is of no value in a place like that when conditions are like this. Surely you remember what the Iditarod celebrates? Not much has changed in 87 years. There still is no road from Nome connecting it to the rest of Alaska.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. liz

    The label 'global warming' doesn't really describe the environmental changes the earth is going through properly. The correct term is climate change. The issue with the term 'global warming' is people who are ignorant dismiss climate change whenever there is a report of snow. While some areas may be effected by heat and drought, look at Texas for example, other areas may report more storms.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Portland tony

    What bothers me is that the most powerful nation on earth has ONE operational ice breaker to assistant a Russian tanker in delivering fuel to an American state. The "Healy", although operational, doesn't even have the Hull to break through the heaviest ice in the Arctic sea. Mismanagement at best.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Polopoint

      Oh, like there's so much need to break through the heaviest ice in the Arctic sea . . .

      January 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ks

      Ask your government why they scrapped our heavy duty icebreaker........

      January 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mav

      The Coast Guard has 2 ice breakers in Seattle but while one is operational the other is in dry dock for repairs. Ther usual cycle is 6 months between the two. The crews sail for those six months with out seeing there family. Hope this info helps shed some light for you.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uncle Dave

      You obviously have no idea how an icebreaker works. The issue is not whether the hull is strong enough; it's whether the ship is heavy enough. See, an icebreaker slides its forward hull on top of the ice until the weight of the ship cracks the ice underneath. The rudders, skegs, and propellers and shafts are all made of very strong alloys and are reinforced. It is simply unnecessary, under normal conditions, for an icebreaker to blaze a path through two-foot plate ice, as most communities that are subject to becoming icebound do not ship by water in the winter.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ks

    I would have thought this story shows the good in people. Some comments on here are just mean spirited. I think this is an exciting story and shows a good side of humunanity. When you have friends and family in these areas maybe you would look at things differently?

    January 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • pmn

      There is not a like button. I like your comment. I appreciate the good people of AK. Have these people sit in 50 below and see how they like it (or even 10 below). They would kicking and screaming to send up the heat. Ignore the ignorant they haven't a clue about too much.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      I agree with you KS. I think that the ugly comments illustrate how out of touch many people are today. It's easy to sit on one's couch and say "screw those people" when one doesn't know those people. These same people would jump up and down screaming injustice if those in need were family, friends, or neighbors. I'm amazed at how quickly people can literally forget that these are human beings.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      For all the good comments presented here, I've certainly learned. However Google US icebreaker and you'll find some troubling facts concerning our capabilities.

      January 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Paul

    And I thought the Ice Caps were Melting so badly, Winter Ice is Several hundred of miles south of NOME.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      With so much open water the wind pushes the ice into massive packs.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • A Nomeite

      lol. Another one who doesn't understand the difference between winter and summer.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Safety First

    Godspeed and watch out for pirate ships!

    January 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. government cheese

    Last year, Nancy Pelosi, got snowed in when trying to attend her global warming meeting. LOL

    January 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hap

    This is why Alaska needs to take $2.55 for every $1.00 they pay in federal taxes. It is a living example of a welfare state. The problem I have with them is they take our money and then complain about taxes by way of the Sarah Palins and other republican do nothings they send to congress. Sam Kinison once said you don't help these people by sending them money you need to send them bus tickets. Move!

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

      Considering the number of Alaska plates we've been seeing in Seattle, I suspect they are moving.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. M

    Who is paying for this? Is Nome of a strategic value? A gallon of gas should run there for $1000. Don't get me wrong, we need to help them.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      So we should help them as long as they pay $1k per gallon of gas and prove their strategic value to the rest of us? You failed to disclose your location. I need to decide if you are of strategic value before I decide if your comment is of value to me.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick121281

      There's no like button, but *like* Chelsea's comment.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cleo

    You know... we get it. People in Nome could have planned better.


    Now can we all just be happy about helping out our fellow Americans? When people need help, you help them. Alaska, New Orleans, Cedar Rapids, Alabama it doesn't matter. And YES... I do realize that many people in Alaska probably decried the help given to people in New Orleans, Cedar Rapids or Alabama... just proves that 'Dumb' is highly contagious nothing more. And yes I do realize we all pay for the USCG services. So what? If it safeguards the well being of one American son in Nome... it was worth it to me. He's my son too.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Portland tony

    @poliop..With the opening of the northwest passage etc...all the countries that border the Arctic are beefing up their presence....not to mention all the exploration for petrochemicals etc....we need a few breakers to help assert our sovereign rights or just let Russia have their way.,,

    January 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dick Hertz

    Storage tanks maybe? I mean, it is Alaska we're talking about? Maybe a little common sense? Then again. We saw who they had the sense to put in Office.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. quark

    Even if the the earth was warming or cooling there would be nothing you can do about it. Who says that today's earth temperature is at its optimum living conditions for humans anyway. If it was dropping 5 degrees people would scream, "see what you've done! We're all doomed!" – and if it rises 5 degrees its "See what you've done! We're all doomed" – After billions of years you somehow think this snapshot in time makes any difference when the earth was much colder and hotter in previous generations. Get a life losers. If the climate warms maybe there will be more land for agriculture. lLets bump it up a few degrees. Put a positive spin on it instead and your outlook will change.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ty

    All that snow and ice must be causing the planet to tip too much making conditions harsh and there for the north pole will become the south pole. LOL.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
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