USCG Cutter Returns Home after Four Months in the Arctic

Peter Koski connects a cable to a buoy on the ice Wed., Oct. 3, 2018, about 715 mi. north of Barrow, Alaska. Koski is an engineer aboard USCGC Healy  in the Arctic to deploy sensors and autonomous submarines to study stratified ocean dynamics and how environmental factors affect the water below the ice surface for the Office of Naval Research. Healy, which is homeported in Seattle, is one of two ice breakers in U.S. service and is the only military ship dedicated to conducting research in the Arctic. (NyxoLyno Cangemi/USCG)

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Healy has returned to their home port in Seattle following a four-month deployment in the Arctic. In addition to providing presence and access in the Arctic during the 129-day summer deployment, the Healy crew completed three research missions in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Office of Naval Research, conducting physical and biological research in the Arctic Ocean.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Shannon Eubanks (left), Petty Officer 1st Class David Edelson (middle) and scientist Jeremy Wilkinson walk on the ice to conduct an ice survey Tues., Oct. 2, 2018, about 715 mi. north of Barrow, Alaska. As members of the ice rescue team,
Eubanks and Edelson conduct surveys of ice conditions to ensure it is safe for members of the crew and science party aboard the ship. (NyxoLyno Cangemi/USCG)

The crew’s first mission was a NOAA-sponsored project aimed at furthering the understanding of the changing biological picture in the Arctic,along with studying the physical oceanography and offshore ocean currents in both the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The findings from this mission will aid scientists in studying the biological conditions in the polar region.

Crew members aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy  prepare to crane a device used to measure conductivity, temperature and depth into the water Wed., Sept. 19, 2018, approximately 100 mi. northwest of Barrow, Alaska, in the Chukchi Sea. (NyxoLyno Cangemi/USCG)

The second mission, supported by the Office of Naval Research, is part of a larger, multi-year Arctic study program. This mission focused on studying the effects of water inflow and surface force changes on ocean stratification and sea ice in the Beaufort Sea. In completing this mission, the Healy crew deployed specialized instruments on ice floes and placed subsurface moorings on the seafloor, which will remain in the Arctic until next year.

Healy’s final mission, sponsored by NSF, was aimed at understanding the effects of the Pacific and Atlantic water-inflow and the associated boundary current in the Arctic ecosystem. As part of a multi-year endeavor, this study captures measurements from subsurface moorings deployed on the Barrow Canyon Slope as well as data collected from Healy’s onboard scientific equipment.

USCGC Healy in the ice Wed., Oct. 3, 2018, about 715 mi. north of Barrow, Alaska, in the Arctic.  (NyxoLyno Cangemi/USCG)

Under the command of USCG Captain Greg Tlapa, the Healy is the premiere high-latitude research vessel in the U.S. and is the only U.S. military surface vessel that deploys to and is capable of operating in the ice-covered waters of the Arctic.In addition to science operations, Healy is capable of conducting a range of USCG operations such as search and rescue,ship escorts, environmental protection and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar Regions. Healy provides access and presence throughout the Arctic region to protect U.S. maritime borders and to safeguard the maritime economy.

At 420-ft. long, with a displacement of more than 16,000 tons and a permanent crew of 87, Healy is the largest ship in the USCG. Commissioned in 2000, Healy is one of two active icebreakers in the U.S. fleet; the other is the USCG Cutter Polar Star, the service’s only heavy icebreaker, home ported in Seattle. Commissioned in 1976, Polar Star recently departed for a four-month Antarctic deployment to support Operation Deep Freeze 2019.

A USCG Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew conducts deck-landing evolutions with USCGC Healy boat crewmembers on Southeast Alaskan waters Nov. 24, 2018. In this evolution, pilots practice landing on the cutter while at sea to maintain proficiencies. (Lt. Kellen Browne/USCG)

Operation Deep Freeze is the logistical support provided by the U.S. Armed Forces to the U.S. Antarctic Program. During Operation Deep Freeze, Polar Star carves a navigable path through seasonal and multi-year ice, sometimes as much as 10-ft. thick,for supply ships to deliver annual operating supplies and fuel to NSF research stations in Antarctica.

USCG has been the sole provider of U.S. polar icebreaking capability since 1965, and it is seeking to increase its ice breaking fleet with six new polar security cutters to ensure continued national presence and access to the polar regions. —USCG

View more images from the USCGC Healy expedition here

USCGC Healy, a polar-class ice breaker, transits Southeast Alaskan waters Nov. 24, 2018. Healy is one of two ice breakers in U.S. service. (Lt. Kellen Browne/USCG)

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