A record-breaking cold snap has left the remote town of Nome, Alaska, dangerously low on fuel. But the Russian tanker ship "Renda" is carrying 1.3 million gallons of gasoline and diesel through the frozen Bering Sea in a path carved by a Coast Guard icebreaker.

Yet the Renda may not make it to Nome before March, when fuel supplies in Nome, where temperatures have reached negative 40 degrees, are projected to be depleted.

According to the Times:

As of Monday, the Renda and the Healy were about 140 miles south of Nome, having made little progress from the night before. Wind, current and the brutal cold are causing complications with breaking what is known as first-year ice - the kind that forms each winter and melts in the summer as opposed to lasting year-round. As soon as the Healy breaks open a channel, ice closes in behind it, squeezing the Renda.

The Coast Guard has been among the most vocal government agencies in asking for more money and better equipment to deal with increased commercial activity in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Admiral Ostebo said the Healy, a medium-duty icebreaker, was fully capable of making the trip to Nome but that using a heavy-duty polar icebreaker - the Coast Guard owns two: one is retired, the other under repair until at least 2014 - might have made a difference.

A New Race of Mercy to Nome, This Time Without Sled Dogs [NYTimes.com]