Coast Guard Concludes Arctic Summer Mission

Crew aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy have completed another Stratified Ocean Dynamics in the Arctic (SODA) study for the Office of Naval Research, part of a multi-year effort to help predict ice coverage in the region.

The goal of this second mission focused on better understanding how the Arctic environment affects different water layers of the Arctic Ocean. The Healy’s Arctic West Summer 2018 deployment was led by Craig Lee of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington. The mission began at Dutch Harbor on Sept. 14 and concluded on Oct. 18.

Thirty scientists and engineers joined some 100 Coast Guard crew in deploying an array of scientific equipment, which will be used to monitor the region for the next year transmitting data back to scientists at the Applied Physics Laboratory.

The 420-foot Healy, one of two icebreakers in US service, is uniquely fitted for such scientific missions, with a full suite of sensors and equipment specifically designed to gather scientific data. Through operations at the ship-based Science Technical Support in the Arctic laboratory (STARC), ship personnel provide technical assistance to visiting scientists gathering data on water conductivity, temperature, depth and sea floor mapping. Last year, STARC personnel used side-scan sonar to locate the sunken shipwreck of the 110-foot crab boat Destination, which capsized and sank in the Bering Sea with a crew of six on board.
With decreasing ice in the Arctic, human activity is increasing in the region, through tourism, commercial fishing, global shipping and exploration for natural resources.

SODA is one of several multi-year studies the Navy is using to determine how best to proceed in the Arctic. Naval officials need more research date to better forecast weather and sea conditions for future operations.
Such knowledge will also allow the Coast Guard, which leads the Joint Force in the Arctic, to support their missions in the polar regions, to respond to threats, facilitate emerging commercial activities and protect sovereign rights in the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the Extended Continental Shelf.