The Russian tanker Renda and the USCG icebreaking cutter Healy are on a rescue mission to the Alaskan city of Nome. After a major storm prevented a pre-winter fuel delivery by barge, the Russian tanker Renda was chartered to deliver 1.3 million gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline to the town of 3,600. Without the emergency resupply the residents would have run out of fuel before spring. The Renda is an ice strengthened tanker but found itself repeatedly stuck in sea ice last week. The Coast Guard icebreaking cutter Healy has had to cut paths for the tanker through ice that has ranged from 10 inches thick to several 5 foot thick pressure ridges. Both ships are now expected to arrive in Nome on Monday or Tuesday. When the ships arrive it will be the first time petroleum products have been delivered by sea to a Western Alaska community in winter.
Nome is on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea and is accessible only by sea or air. With the onset of winter, the town is ice-locked. The trip from open water through the ice to Nome is roughly 390 NM.
The current emergency resupply brings to mind an earlier supply mission to Nome. In 1925, 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs relayed diphtheria antitoxin 674 miles (1,085 km) by dog sled across the Alaska wilderness to Nome, saving the town from a growing diphtheria epidemic. The lead sled dog in the final leg of the trip was named Balto and would become the most famous canine of her time. A statue of Balto is is still popular with tourists in Central Park New York.