The Coast Guard Cutter Healy and its crew returned to its homeport in Seattle at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, after a 127-day summer deployment in the Arctic Ocean.
The Healy’s crew conducted three groundbreaking scientific studies in the Arctic, discovering new jellyfish species, collecting data on climate change and observing the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.
The crew’s first mission this summer resulted in groundbreaking discoveries in the Chukchi Sea ecosystem, including the discovery of multiple new species of jellyfish. Healy’s crew and scientists aboard the Coast Guard vessel used the Global Explorer ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to successfully collect hundreds of living specimens for laboratory study. Other sampling gear enabled the scientists to assess the biological diversity of the entire ecosystem, from creatures living beneath the sea floor to microbial communities in sea ice. These findings will help improve the knowledge and understanding of this poorly understood and rapidly changing region.
The second mission focused on deploying an array of deepwater acoustic devices 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.
During the crew’s final mission, the crew worked with researchers from the University of New Hampshire in support of NOAA, the State Department, and the White House Office of Science and Technology to conduct a hydrographic survey of the extended continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea. Using a multi-beam sonar installed on the cutter, the crew mapped more than 10,000 square miles of the sea floor to collect data necessary to extend U.S. territory and sovereign rights over the sea floor to an area estimated to be double the size of California. The Coast Guard crewmembers also conducted two 3,200-meter dredge operations through two-meter thick ice, recovering multiple geologic samples to fulfill an international agreement with Canada.
Currently under the command of Capt. Jason Hamilton, Coast Guard Cutter Healy is the nation’s premiere high-latitude research vessel. The cutter is a 420-foot long icebreaker with extensive scientific capabilities and a permanent crew of 87 Coast Guard men and women.
As a Coast Guard Cutter, the Healy’s primary mission is scientific support but is also capable of other operations such as search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection, and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar Regions.