Friday, November 12, 2004

Sanoe Lee, a crew member of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star, greeted her father, Eddie (along with dog Kepa), who came to meet her yesterday at Honolulu Harbor when the ship arrived from Seattle.

Surf sailors about
to get taste of deep
Antarctic chill

Eddie Lee thought his daughter was crazy: Why would the girl he raised on sun and surf want to spend two months in Antarctica?

"It's like the Jamaican team that went into bobsledding," the Kaneohe resident said yesterday with a laugh. "She's a water person. She loves the beach."

But Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Sanoe Lee said being stationed aboard a polar icebreaker was a top choice for her first duty tour after boot camp. She's even looking forward to braving super-cold temperatures and replacing her surfing routine with a little snowboarding.

"It'll be my first deep freeze," said Lee, who grew up in the islands. "You can get used to it."

The Coast Guard's Polar Star, which Lee has been stationed on since April, arrived in Honolulu yesterday from Seattle and is expected to be in port until Monday. From here the cutter will embark on a six-month, 28,000-mile journey to Antarctica.

On the way, they will stop in Australia and Tasmania to pick up scientists and supplies.

The Polar Star, built in the 1970s, is capable of breaking ice up to 21 feet thick. When it reaches the Antarctic, it will cut a channel into McMurdo Sound to allow passage for cargo and supply ships.

The 399-foot ship left Seattle on Nov. 4 with 160 crew members on board, and is expected to pick up about 20 scientists before getting to Antarctica. The cutter's crew will spend two months in Antarctica, helping to collect samples for research experiments before turning back to avoid getting iced in at McMurdo Sound.

The Hawaii contingent aboard the Polar Star is four strong and includes two sailors from the Big Island.

Seaman Nicholas Gardner of Pahoa said he is just going to "have to get used to" the frigid Antarctic climate. The trip will be his first Coast Guard duty tour.

"There are not a lot of opportunities to do this," said Gardner, whose family flew to Oahu to spend time with him during his stay.

Lee also planned to spend time with family while the Polar Star is docked in Honolulu. Her father and dog met her yesterday afternoon at Pier 1, where others were also lined up to meet friends and family.

Seaman Justin Santiago's father flew over from Hilo so the two could spend time together. Santiago said their itinerary during his brief stay in the islands is "beach every day."

At 19, Santiago is considered a veteran aboard the Polar Star as this trip will be his second to the Antarctic.

He says he is looking forward to exploring more of the landscape this time around and doing some snowboarding, which he learned how to do on his first trip.

Also aboard the cutter is Petty Officer 2nd Class Vince Hiongson, 33, of Nanakuli. The engineer is making his second cruise on the Polar Star, which he has been stationed on since 2003.



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