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. Lanfear

    Where's Balto when you need him?

    January 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan Guy

      Guess you've been watching too much Disney. Balto only led the team into Nome on the final leg of the journey. The "hero" of that serum run was Togo, but unless you're a fan of the Iditarod or are familiar with Nome history, you wouldn't know that thanks to Hollywood.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tony

    @ Mav. I hate to dwell on this ice breaker issue ....but the the Coast Guard Commander testified to Congress that 2 of the three ships were to be layed up for 7 years. I find this a little too long..But Google it!

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

    And people have nerve to say the coast guard is useless. idiots.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • GCDb


      January 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg Haus

      Double 'like'

      January 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      It's another socialist invention of the Liberals.

      January 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelsea12345

      That's right Bob. Those goshdarned liberals are always inventing useful things.... They really need to cut it out.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. canucken

    They're probably burning more fuel delivering the actual fuel than the amount that is actually being delivered. Who pays for this? The residents? The state? Feds? Just curious. Worlds most expensive oil.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff S

      You must think they have some incredibly huge fuel tanks on those boats...

      January 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Duuuuuude

    I see a new race in the making - a boat version of the Iditarod...

    January 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff S

    Just what we need, more Socialist assistance to Alaska. I say let the market play out. If they need to pay $15/gallon for gas, so be it. Anything else would just make them a bunch of socialists, right? I love when Alaskans refer to Dems as "Socialists", when as a state, they receive something like $2 in federal money for every $1 they pay in taxes, while in a state like Illinois, we pay close to $3 in taxes for every dollar the fed puts back into our state.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • dt

      Sir, you need to not dwell so much on reality, it isn't important. The Republican philosophy is that the strongest survive – and all else go away. It is important to let market forces decide the future of this city. we are sick and tired of you liberals always wanting something for nothing. PAY for what you consume and the market will decide if your city is relevant.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • GCDb

      Although we did receive a bunch of federal money since the land was bought from Russia and into the first half of the 20th century, it's been Prudhoe Bay oil that has provided the funds to the state. Given the fact that we've been supplying the U.S. with 50% of it's domestic oil production & 10% of it's oil consumption since 1977 (it used to supply more, but production has fallen due to the natural cycle of an oil field), I'd say that Alaska has made up for it's use of federal money in the past by supplying the stuff that makes this country run. And when Prudhoe Bay runs out & the U.S. is hurting for more, there's always A.N.W.A.R.!

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

      "If they need to pay $15/gallon for gas, so be it."

      Um, I think you're missing the point. Without the coast guard's assistance, there simply won't be any gas for them to purchase. Period. This village is off the road system and they are going to completely run out of gas and home heating fuel before spring thaw.

      And gas in Nome probably goes for close to $15/gal even when they do get their shipment on time...

      January 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • GCDb

      And it's not about paying $15 or more for fuel. It's about them running out & freezing to death. If Republicans are known for anything, it's being very religious & sticking to the Good Book. Does the Bible say anything about only the strong surviving or only if you're economically sufficient enough? I haven't seen anything about that while reading it, & I have. Help your fellow man. That's what this fuel delivery is all about, helping save lives. You know? Like Republicans are anti-abortion so that lives can be saved from premature death. Democrats or Republicans, Socialists or Capitalists. It doesn't matter, these people need help. If anything that the federal government has done that could be categorized as socialist assistance, it would the massive bailouts of American companies. What happened to "let the market play out" when they came with their hands out?

      January 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Who said the Coast Guard's time was free? Sorry, but the escort duty is actually built into the cost of freight.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. open400

    Let's remember States Rights and big mouth Sarah Palin: Let the state of Alaska sort this thing out with their own budget and resources. Federal government should not interfere with the state of Alaska.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Casper

      Republicans take as much more more federal handouts than anyone else. They just deny it.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JIF wannabe

    Can you imagine the godawful sound that thing makes breaking through 2 feet of ice?

    January 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin Colins

    Hmmmm, so the federally-funded U.S. Coast Guard is helping out? Interesting in that so many Alaskans claim to hate the federal government and wish to sucede from the U.S. - then again, for those who know facts, Alaska gets more federal-pork per-capita than any other U.S. state. Hoary hypocrites, they.

    January 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAVE

      Alaska also provides a lot to the federal government.

      January 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. t3chsupport

    Those boats cracking all of that ice makes me think of popping bubble wrap... seems strangely gratifying.

    January 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Saoirse

    That's a lot of ice to get through! Thanks and good job to Renda, Healy and both crews. Glad that Nome is getting their much needed fuel.

    January 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Greg Haus

    Something tells me the people of Nome are global warming skeptics.

    January 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeremy

    Funny thing is if you go to the nome nugget newspaper this story is all propaganda.

    January 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SailorJerry

    hope they didnt forget the rum.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. A Nomeite

    up here in Nome we're following the hysteria in the national media over this with some amusement. The media sure like to create drama where none exist. This is not a rescue, there is no emergency, and no one is at danger of freezing to death. The original delivery was supposed to be here in October, well before our yearly freeze-up, but was missed for rasons that had nothing to do with weather, and everything to do with someone, somewhere, dropping the ball. There is still plenty of heating fuel in Nome, and more could be flown in at any time. It's just that this method of delivery was deemed cheaper than the air route and will cost the people of Nome a bit less at the pump. Even so, we will be paying for it with an increased prize at the pump, and we're not complaining because that's just how it is.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • kelly

      Nomeite: Thank you for your post very informative!! Your positive notes are much appreciated as well!!!

      January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
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