Coast Guard Cutter Healy visits Seward, Alaska

Coast Guard Alaska News
SEWARD, Alaska — The Coast Guard Cutter Healy was moored in Seward Friday after completing 71 days of operations in the Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean.

While in Seward, the Healy will be open for tours on Sept. 26 and 27 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.The public and press are welcome to attend. All children must be accompanied by an adult and no pets are allowed aboard the cutter. Coast Guard crewmembers will be standing by to answer questions about the 420-foot icebreaker and their most recent operations in the Arctic.

During the past two and half months, the crew and embarked science teams successfully conducted two science missions and one Coast Guard mission to further our nation’s scientific knowledge of the Arctic. One more science mission is yet to come for this year’s deployment.

The first science mission was a multidisciplinary study sponsored by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 90 miles west of Barrow, near Hanna Shoal. Science members collected pelagic and benthic chemical and biological samples, observed physical oceanographic properties, and analyzed the data to establish an ecological baseline for the highly productive and biodiverse area. Equipment used included the CTD, which measures conductivity, temperature, and depth, to collect water samples at different depths and determine physical and chemical properties of the ocean. Various nets were used to collect biological samples and coring equipment was used to collect sediment and biological samples from the bottom of the ocean.

The second science mission was a study sponsored by the National Science Foundation along the North Slope in the Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf. The science party focused on identifying geological evidence of a massive flood near the Mackenzie River that occurred about 13,000 years ago and had profound effects on global climate. The science party used sonar to survey the seafloor to identify ideal areas to deploy the Jumbo Piston Core, an apparatus capable of sampling sediment 40 to 70 feet into the ocean floor. Similar to the rings of a tree, the science party will analyze the different layers of sediment to learn about the water composition dating back thousands of years.

The newly completed third mission, sponsored by the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, took place near and in the ice edge. This mission’s focus was to demonstrate the ability to use current technologies to respond to oil spills in the Arctic. The technologies included an unmanned aerial system, an unmanned underwater vehicle, an oil recovery skimmer, and a remotely operated vehicle. Using oranges and peat moss to simulate an oil spill, the researchers observed how effectively the technologies surveyed and monitored recovery of the simulated spill.

The fourth and final science mission of the deployment is sponsored by NSF and will take the Healy crew north of Barrow on the North Slope and potentially as far east as Amundsen Gulf and M’Clure Strait. The primary mission objectives are to conduct CTDs and recover, service and redeploy a series of bottom mounted scientific moorings. Data collected by the instruments documents the Western Arctic Boundary Current which helps improve the understanding of Arctic circulation.

The Healy, commissioned in 1999, is the nation’s newest and largest U.S. high-latitude icebreaker. The cutter is 420-feet long and has extensive scientific capabilities. Homeported in Seattle, the cutter has a permanent crew of 88 and its primary mission is scientific support. In addition, as a Coast Guard cutter, the Healy is capable of other operations such as search and rescue, ship escorts, environmental protection, and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar Regions.

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