U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Heads North for Arctic Deployment

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy. File photo via USCG.

The US. Coast Guard cutter Healy, the nation’s largest, most technologically advanced polar icebreaker, is en route to Alaska to begin months long Arctic deployment and support scientists engaged in three distinct science missions.

Coast Guard officials said that Healy left Seattle on June 13. The cutter is the Coast Guard’s only icebreaker equipped with scientific instrumentation by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support Arctic research and is considered ideally specialized for scientific missions providing access to the most remote areas of the Arctic Ocean.

The first mission, in support of the Arctic Observing Network, is NSF-funded. During this mission, the Healy is to service subsurface moorings in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, conducting a survey of the boundary current system from the Bering Sea to the western Canadian Arctic.

The program has for over two decades worked to improve understanding of the Pacific Arctic ecosystem in a changing climate. Ancillary programs include measuring harmful algae blooms and a variety of biogeochemical parameters.

The second mission involves 20 early career polar scientists and their mentors on a Polar Chief Scientist Training Cruise, sponsored by the NSF and University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, doing multidisciplinary research.

While transiting the Northwest Passage, these early career scientists will map critical bathymetric gaps and scientific sampling across various disciplines, and also work to develop skills in shipboard leadership.

The third and final mission supports the Global Ocean Ship-based Hydrographic Investigations Program (GO-SHIP), with a goal of making the first ever single ship, single season, high resolution transect of hydrographic observations across the Arctic basin.

Coast Guard officials said this effort builds on data from as far back as the 1990s to collect repeat oceanographic data from a series of ocean basin transects around the world. The high-resolution surface-to-bottom multidisciplinary observations the team collects during this mission will be compared to earlier partial datasets to better understand the Arctic environment.