The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Another 1st for the USCG

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20), based at Pier 36 in Seattle, has arrived in the North Pole -- becoming the first U.S. surface ship to make the trip unaccompanied.

Healy's crew and science party left Dutch Harbor, Alaska on August 9th and arrived at the North Pole on Saturday.

According to a Coast Guard press release, Healy is the country's newest high-latitude vessel. It's a 420-foot, 16,000-ton, 30,000-horsepower icebreaker. It's capable of breaking more than 10 feet of ice, but Healy’s continuous icebreaking capacity as 4.5 feet at three knots, compared to the 6-foot icebreaking capacity of the Polar Star and its inactive sister ship, the Polar Sea. (What does continuously breaking 6 feet of ice sound like? Think giant fingernails on the world's largest chalkboard.)

USCGC Healy made it to the upper region on September 5th. The fact that most of the polar area is melting rapidly due to global warming means that valuable resources such as oil and minerals are there for the taking.

The Coast Guard's only active heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, is almost 10 years over its intended 30-year service lifespan; its sister ship, Polar Sea, went inactive in 2011 after an engine failure. Healy, began service in 2000, but it is a "medium polar icebreaker" primarily suited to supporting scientific research, the report found.

"Russia, on the other hand, has 40 icebreakers and another 11 planned or under construction," the White House said. President Vladimir Putin has also stepped up his country’s military deployments and permanent infrastructure in the region over the last few years, even going so far as to restore abandoned Soviet-era bases and claim ownership of the North Pole. Early last month, Russia submitted its latest claims over a vast swath of the Arctic Ocean to the United Nations,

"The Coast Guard has been operating here off Alaska since the 1860s," Captain Jason Hamilton said. "Healy continues that proud tradition and we clearly demonstrated the capability to provide access to the furthest regions of the planet."

Combined reports from The Navy Times, Arctic Newswire, Christian Science Monitor and I4U

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