Russian icebreaker returns from emergency Antarctic resupply mission

The icebreaking cargo vessel Vasily Golovnin arrived at the Washington State Port of Everett Thursday following an emergency resupply mission to several Antarctic research stations operated by Argentina.

Owned by Vladivostok, Russiabased FESCO, the 525footlong icebreaker delivered 220 tons of fuel, provisions and research equipment, along with carrying 20 members of a polar expedition to the Argentinean seasonal research station Cmara on the frozen continent. After delivering supplies and personnel to the Cmara station, the FESCO icebreaker met the small supply vessel Canal Beagle, where the Vasily Golovnin transshipped 180 tons of general cargo and 180 tons of fuel for the Argentinean Orkados Station, the first and oldest permanent research station on the continent. Established in 1903 by a Scottish explorer, Orkados has operated since 1904 under the control of the Argentinean government.

This was the vessel's second Antarctic supply mission in less than six months, both under charter by the Argentinean Navy.

In December, the vessel delivered 1,125 tons of cargo to Marambio and Espaerance, both permanent Argentinean Antarctic stations. Argentina operates six permanent bases and several seasonal stations within the wide wedgeshaped swath of Antarctica that the nation claims as its own territory. The icebreaking cargo vessel Vasily Golovnin.

A fire aboard the Argentinean icebreaker Almirante Irizar while headed home at the end of last year's season has seriously limited the South American nation's Antarctic operations since. The several hundred longterm residents of the Argentinean stations have been forced to rely on resupply from two small support vessels, including the Canal Beagle, two Hercules C130 airplanes and several helicopters. With both of the small supply vessels experiencing ongoing mechanical problems and the aircraft limited to fair weather flying, the supply situation worsened late last year and required fuel to be rationed at some of the southern bases.

At the beginning of the year, the Argentinean government arranged to charter several foreign vessels to keep supplies flowing to the various stations. In addition to chartering the Vasily Golovnin, the Argentinean Navy also made an emergency charter of the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong for a January resupply mission to several of the stations.

The Vasily Golovnin is scheduled to leave the Port of Everett on April 1, headed for the Russian port city of Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk.

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