The U.S. Coast Guard medium icebreaker, USCGC Healy (WAGB-20) arrived at its homeport in Seattle on Friday (Nov. 30) 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 U.S. Department of Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), conducting physical and biological research in the Arctic Ocean.
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.
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 the National Science Foundation, 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.
Under the command of U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Greg Tlapa, the Healy is the nation’s premiere high-latitude research vessel 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. On September 5, 2015, USCGC Healy became the first unaccompanied United States surface vessel to reach the North Pole.
At 420-feet long with a displacement of over 16,000 tons and a permanent crew of 87, the Healy is the largest ship in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Healy was built by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. The construction included a technology transfer agreement between Avondale Industries and the Finnish Kværner Masa-Yards Arctic Technology Centre (Aker Arctic).
Healy is named in honor of United States Revenue Cutter Service Captain Michael A. Healy. Her keel was laid on 16 September 1996. Healy joined the icebreakers USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) and USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) in their homeport of Seattle, Washington on 10 November 1999.
In addition to science operations, Healy is capable of conducting a range of Coast Guard 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.