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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Seattle Icebreaker Heads to Alaska for Summer

By Mark Edward Nero

On June 7, the crew of Coast Guard cutter Healy departed its homeport at the US Coast Guard base on the downtown Seattle waterfront for a four-month deployment to the Arctic Ocean to carry out scientific research.

The Healy crew is set to conduct three missions focusing on the biology, chemistry, geology and physics of the Arctic Ocean and its ecosystems, as well as perform multi-beam sonar mapping of the Extended Continental Shelf.

For the first mission, the crew will work with 46 researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Alaska-Anchorage to assess the biological diversity of the Chukchi Sea.

The team of scientists will use what the Coast Guard says is cutting-edge technology to identify and document the species living in the inadequately understood region.

The crew will also deploy an array of acoustic bottom moorings in support of researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Office of Naval Research. The moorings will collect data on how climate change and decreased ice coverage is affecting the Arctic Ocean.

In the third mission, researchers from the University of New Hampshire will use multi-beam sonar mapping and bottom dredging in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean to further support the demarcation of the Extended Continental Shelf.

This is the 10th ECS cruise for Healy. The vessel, built in 1999, is the nation’s largest high-latitude icebreaker at 420 feet long. It has a permanent crew of 87 and is capable of other operations such as search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the polar regions.