Why the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy is at the North Pole
USCGC Healy

Yesterday, the US Coast Guard announced one of its ships made its way to the North Pole. It made history too. The US Coast Guard Cutter Healy became the first American surface ship to reach the North Pole alone.

The Arctic region is getting busier thanks to fast melting polar ice.

“As the Arctic region continues to open up to development, the data gathered on board Healy during this cruise will become ever more essential to understanding how the scientific processes of the Arctic work, and how to most responsibly exercise stewardship over the region,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Healy’s mission

Healy’s current mission began on August 7th. Its primary goal is reaching the North Pole and supporting the GEOTRACES program. Healy is one of three separate ships operating in support of the Arctic GEOTRACES program.

The program’s goal? To better understand ocean chemistry by sampling different trace elements in the ocean waters. The Arctic GEOTRACES program focuses on understanding what exactly is going on in the Arctic Ocean. The research being conducted now will give scientists a baseline of contaminants for future comparisons and will also provide clues as to what may happen in the region in the future.

Reaching the North Pole

“The crunch of breaking ice underneath the bow is audible throughout the entire ship. There is no ebb and flow to the movement, just an unstructured shaking as we pass through different layers of ice,” writes Katlin Bowman, a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

More than 80 Coast Guard members and 50 scientists reached the North Pole on September 5th.

It wasn’t all work. Dr. Bill Landing from Florida State University played some tunes at the top of the world.

North Pole Sax

Credit: Katlin Bowman

The Healy and its crew spent three days at the North Pole collecting samples to be analyzed.

The entire crew got together for a group photo before continuing their work.

Healy group photo

Credit: Cory Mendenhall

Be sure to check out Bowman’s blog for more information on the science behind the mission. You can also keep tabs of the Healy via its webcam. New pictures are uploaded every hour.

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