SEATTLE — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) returned to its homeport of Seattle on Friday after a historic 17,000-mile, 124-day deployment to the high Arctic latitudes that included a transit to the North Pole.
The crew’s efforts demonstrated interoperability in the polar region, supported US security objectives and projected an ice-capable presence in Arctic waters and the Gulf of Alaska.
“It is more important than ever to ensure safety and a sovereign presence in the Arctic and to expand oceanographic research to understand the impact of environmental changes,” said Capt. Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy. “The crew of Healy is proud to have completed this mission to the North Pole and back, advancing American interests across the Arctic Ocean.”
Commissioned in 2000, Healy is a 420-foot medium-sized icebreaker and a uniquely capable oceanographic research platform. Healy’s crew crossed the ice-covered Arctic Ocean to the top of the world, reaching the Geographic North Pole on September 30, 2022. This was only the second time a US surface ship had reached 90 degrees north unaccompanied.
In July and August, after a port call in Seward, Alaska, Healy traveled in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and headed as much as 78 degrees north while leading a team from the University of Applied Physics Department sponsored by the Office of Naval Research Washington supported Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The embarked team worked with the Healy crew to undertake various developments including the deployment and recovery of sea gliders, underwater sensors and acoustic buoys in the rim and pack ice zones as part of the Arctic Mobile Observing System.
During transit to and from the Arctic, Healy participated with Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopter crews in flight operations in Kotzebue Sound and off the coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska, conducting pass drills with Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756). and completed patrols of the U.S.-Russia international maritime border line.
In September and October, after a port visit in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Healy traveled north again to conduct multidisciplinary, internationally collaborative research as part of the Synoptic Arctic Survey. The embarked team, funded by the National Science Foundation, collected samples and data to study environmental changes across the Arctic Ocean. Upon reaching the North Pole, Healy conducted two days of scientific operations and the crew enjoyed several hours of freedom from ice.
After disembarking all of the science staff during a second logistics stop in Dutch Harbor in late October, Healy made a final port visit to Juneau, Alaska, where friends and family of crew members had the opportunity to sail on the cutter during the final voyage through the interior passage to Seattle.
The Coast Guard provides the United States’ most active and visible surface presence in the polar regions and is currently recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to these regions in support of the nation’s economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.
The operational polar fleet currently includes the Healy and the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10), a 399-foot icebreaker that entered service in 1976. Designed for open water ice breaking, these cutters feature reinforced hulls and specially angled bows.
Polar security cutters will allow the US to maintain defensive readiness in the Arctic and Antarctic regions; Enforce contracts and other laws necessary to protect industry and the environment; provision of ports, waterways and coastal security; and to provide logistical support – including ship escort – to facilitate the movement of goods and personnel necessary to support scientific research, commerce, national security activities and maritime safety.
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