UCGC Healy First U.S. Ship to Reach the North Pole Unaccompanied

USCGC HEALY at the North Pole! Photo courtesy of ENS Smith
USCGC HEALY at the North Pole! Photo courtesy of ENS Smith

For the first time in American history, a US surface ship has reached the North Pole unaccompanied. The Coast Guard Cutter Healy gained that distinction at 7:47 AM on September 5.

This is only the fourth time that a US surface vessel has reached the North Pole, and three out of four times that feat was accomplished by the Healy.

The Healy reached the North Pole a full week sooner than planned. As the vessel moved towards North Pole they encountered ice up to 10 feet thick, this thickness made it necessary for the Healy to utilize three engines, as well as to back up, then picked up speed and ram into the ice to break it. During that time the vessel was slowed to 3 kn as they progressed towards their goal.

At about 100 miles from the pole, the Healy passed two Canadian Coast Guard vessels, the Louis St. Laurent, and the Terry Fox, as they were heading south from the pole, where they had been on September 1. The Louis St. Laurent was the first Canadian ship to reach the North Pole in 1994,, accompanied by the United States Coast Guard cutter Polar Sea, when the Polar Sea became the first US vessel to reach the pole.

Casting a GEOTRACES carousel near another ice floe. Photo courtesy of PA2 Mendenhall
Casting a GEOTRACES carousel near another ice floe. Photo courtesy of PA2 Mendenhall

On Thursday night and Friday morning, prior to reaching the pole, the Healy conducted its first on ice science station. Working around the clock in the 24 hours of daylight afforded them at the pole, scientists were able to get onto the ice, using the vessel’s man basket, and collect samples.

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During that same time, the vessel conducted ice rescue training exercises. Utilizing dry suits and other appropriate cold-weather gear crew members were able to jump in and out of the water for training purposes without getting too cold, and ENS Brian Hagerty reported.

Following their accomplishment, the vessel received a congratulatory note from the Commandant of the Coast Guard, who was in Barrow with Sen. Murkowski and the 17th district commander.

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