SEATTLE — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) returned to her homeport of Seattle 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 United States security objectives, and projected an ice-resistant presence in Arctic waters and the Gulf of Alaska.
“It is more important than ever to ensure security and sovereign presence in the Arctic and to expand oceanographic research to understand the impacts of environmental change,” said Captain Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Healy. “Healy’s crew is proud to have accomplished this mission to the North Pole and back, advancing American interests across the Arctic Ocean.”
Commissioned in 2000, Healy is a 420ft medium icebreaker and oceanographic research platform with unique capabilities. Healy’s crew crossed the icy Arctic Ocean to the top of the world, reaching the geographic North Pole on September 30, 2022. It was only the second time a US surface ship had reached 90 degrees north without being accompanied.
In July and August, after a stopover in Seward, Alaska, Healy traveled to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, going as far north as 78 degrees, while supporting a team sponsored by the Office of Naval Research from the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Washington and Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography. The onboard team worked with Healy’s crew to conduct various evolutions, including the deployment and recovery of sea gliders, underwater sensors and sonobuoys, in marginal and pack ice areas as part of the system of mobile observation of the Arctic.
During transits to and from the Arctic, Healy participated in flight operations in Kotzebue Sound and off Kodiak Island, Alaska with the crews of Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopters. , conducted overtaking exercises with the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756), and completed patrols of the international maritime border between the United States and Russia.
In September and October, after a stopover in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Healy again transited north to conduct internationally collaborative multidisciplinary research as part of the Synoptic Arctic Survey. The National Science Foundation-funded team collected samples and data to study environmental changes in the Arctic Ocean. Upon reaching the North Pole, Healy conducted two days of scientific operations and the crew enjoyed several hours of freedom in the ice.
After disembarking all science personnel during a second logistics stop at Dutch Harbor in late October, Healy made a final stop in Juneau, Alaska, where friends and family of crew members had the opportunity to sail on the cutter during its last running leg. through the inside 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 fleet of polar icebreakers to ensure continued access to these regions in support of economic, commercial , maritime and national security of the nation.
The operational Polar fleet currently includes the Healy and the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10), a 399ft heavy icebreaker commissioned in 1976. These cutters are designed for open water icebreaking and feature reinforced hulls and specially angled arches.
Polar security cutters will enable the United States to maintain defense readiness in the Arctic and Antarctic regions; enforce treaties and other laws necessary to protect both industry and the environment; ensure the security of ports, waterways and coastlines; and provide logistical support – including vessel escort – to facilitate the movement of goods and personnel needed to support scientific research, commerce, national security activities and maritime security.
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