Ships taking fuel to Nome making 5 mph in thick ice

The Russian tanker Renda transits through broken Bering Sea ice Jan. 9, 2012. The Coast Guard Cutter Healy is breaking ice and escorting the Renda to the remote village of Nome to deliver 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products to Nome residents.
U.S. Coast Guard photo
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy and the Renda are approximately 110 miles south of Nome when this image was made Jan. 9, 2012, and are expected to arrive in Nome in the near future.
U.S. Coast Guard photo
The Russian-flagged tanker Renda steams toward Nome, Alaska, through a path in the Bering Sea ice broken up by the Coast Guard Cutter Healy Jan. 6, 2012.
Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
A Coast Guard Cutter Healy crewmember takes a moment to watch the Russian-flagged tanker Renda steam through the ice in the North Bering Sea while the cutter crew escorts the tanker to Nome Jan. 6, 2012. The 420-foot Seattle-based Healy is the Coast Guard's newest and most technologically advanced polar icebreaker and is currently the service's only operational polar icebreaker.
Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew breaks ice in the Bering Sea as the Russian-flagged tanker Renda, approximately 19 miles northwest of Nunivak Island, makes their way to Nome, Alaska, to deliver more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel to the city Jan. 6, 2012. The 420-foot Seattle-based Healy and tanker Renda are approximately 19 miles northwest of Nunivak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by cutter Healy.
U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy escorts the Russian-flagged tanker Renda 250 miles south of Nome Jan. 6, 2012. The vessels are transiting through ice up to five-feet thick in this area.
Photo courtesy Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis / U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice around the Russian-flagged tanker Renda 250 miles south of Nome Jan. 6, 2012. The Healy is the Coast Guard's only currently operating polar icebreaker.
Photo courtesy Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis / U.S. Coast Guard
The Russian-flagged tanker Renda carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel for the city of Nome steams through a path in the ice of the Bering Sea Jan. 6, 2012.
Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

A Russian tanker is inching through thick ice in the Bering Sea en route to delivering fuel to Nome. The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy is cutting a path for the 370-foot Renda, which is carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel.

Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class David Mosley said the vessels were 170 miles south of Nome as of late Sunday morning. Mosley said the ships are able to travel only five miles an hour through ice up to two feet thick.

The Coast Guard initially estimated arrival time early Monday, but Mosley says it's difficult to predict an exact time because of challenges of navigating through ice.

Late Saturday afternoon the tanker carrying much-needed fuel for iced-in Nome was about 190 miles from its destination late Saturday afternoon and making slow but steady progress, a company official said

The city of about 3,500 people on the northwest Alaska coastline didn't get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm and could run out of crucial supplies before spring without the delivery. The 370-foot tanker was carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel and was being shepherded through hundreds of miles of sea ice by the U.S. Coast Guard's only icebreaker.

"They're navigating through ice right now, taking a direct route for now," said Jason Evans, the CEO of Sitnasuak Native Corp., one of the companies undertaking the delivery. "They considered going through patches where there might be thinner ice, but determined that would have taken them on a longer route."

If the mission is successful, it will be the first time fuel has been delivered by sea to a Western Alaska community in winter.

The Russian tanker came upon ice about a foot thick very early Friday near Nunivak Island in the eastern Bering Sea, the Coast Guard said. The tanker is following the Healy, the Coast Guard's only functioning icebreaker -- a ship of special design with a reinforced hull made to move through ice.

"It's going basically as planned," Evans said.

Webcam on Coast Guard icebreaker Healy

Associated Press