SANTA RITA, Guam — The Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia crew recently returned from a 13-day partnership-building patrol of the waters surrounding Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific Ocean, covering 2,358 miles.
The crew recovered a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrophone from Challenger Deep, patrolled for illegal fishing incursions of the CNMI exclusive economic zone, responded to distress signals from the island of Agrihan, held boating safety training for CNMI partner agencies, and assisted the National Park Service in restoring American Memorial Park in Saipan before Veterans Day.
Challenger Deep is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. It is the meeting point of two active tectonic plates, whose movements cause earthquakes several times a year around the Pacific Rim.
NOAA’s hydrophone, deployed by Sequoia in July 2015, captured sounds from the bottom of the ocean floor for a 22-day period, enabling seismologists to learn more about earthquakes in the area.
“Just one clear capture of the sound of an earthquake would make this hydrophone worth it and instead, we have several,” said Matthew Fowler, a NOAA research technician who assisted Sequoia’s crew in deploying and recovering the hydrophone. “This has been a very productive trip, and we at NOAA look forward to learning more about what happens at 36,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.”
The crew’s efforts were the result of a long and fruitful partnership between the Coast Guard and NOAA, who work closely in many areas, including scientific research, pollution response, fisheries management, and law enforcement.
“Challenger Deep is one of the mysterious places on Earth,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Worst, commanding officer of Sequoia. “It was an exciting patrol for the crew – it isn’t every day that we get to use our ship’s unique tools to deploy and recover hydrophones. I am glad we were able to assist one of our valuable government partners, and look forward to future scientific endeavors.”
In addition to building partnerships with NOAA, Sequoia spent two days in Saipan, developing relationships between the Coast Guard and the CNMI Department of Public Safety and CNMI Division of Wildlife and Fish.
The crew provided in-depth training on the navigation rules to CNMI DPS small boat operators. This training enabled DPS boat crews to better understand and practice safe boating. Prior to the training, CNMI DPS had limited education about the navigation rules.
In addition to providing formal classroom instruction on navigation, the Sequoia crew also trained CNMI’s small boat crews in towing procedures.
These informative training sessions enhanced the response capabilities of one of the Coast Guard’s key partner agencies within CNMI and Guam’s waters. Without a properly-trained CNMI DPS workforce, the Coast Guard would be stretched thinly across an area of responsibility the size of the continental United States.
In addition to providing training to CNMI public safety employees, the crew also assisted the National Park Service to restore American Memorial Park in Garapan, Saipan, following the devastating effects of Super Typhoon Soudelor in August 2015. The crew cleared large debris from several fields, trimmed overgrown grass, and repaired Wi-Fi services at the Garapan memorial.
“Helping the National Park Service provided us a unique opportunity to learn more about Saipan’s history, and connect with the people of Saipan,” said Chief Petty Officer Mark Petty, a boatswain’s mate aboard Sequoia. “While the island, and especially the national park, is still devastated following Super Typhoon Soudelor, it amazes me how resilient the people of Saipan are, and I am glad we could assist them in their recovery.”
Sequoia is a multi-mission, 225-foot, juniper-class seagoing buoy tender. In addition to maintaining aids to navigation in the Marianas and the Marshall Islands, the crew conducts search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, homeland security, and living marine resources patrols. Sequoia’s crew is responsible for all Coast Guard-maintained aids to navigation in the Western Pacific and has a crew of eight officers and 43 enlisted.