Coast Guard Cutter Healy returns after circumnavigating North America

Commander Phillip Baxa, operations officer aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, hugs his family at Base Seattle pier after the Healy’s return from a 22,000-mile, 133-day deployment circumnavigating North America. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark/U.S. Coast Guard

Crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy sailed back into their Seattle homeport on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the conclusion of a 22,000-mile, 133-day deployment during which they engaged in numerous events, including mapping over 20,000-square kilometers of the ocean seafloor.

The 420-foot medium icebreaker stood as a U.S. surface presence in the Arctic, supported oceanographic research missions, participated in an international search-and-rescue exercise and passing exercises with surface vessels from the U.S. Navy, Canadian Navy and Mexican Navy while circumnavigating North America.

The crew also hosted members of the international science community and institutions from the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark who were conducting oceanographic research throughout the Arctic, including the Northwest passage and within Baffin Bay to monitor environmental change.

Coast Guard officials said the crew facilitated 430 over-the-side casts of various scientific instruments related to conductivity, temperature and depth studies that requires the cutter to station keep as wire lowers and recovers the instrument from below the surface. The over 20,000-square kilometers of seafloor mapped included 12,000-square kilometers of previously unmapped regions.

The vessel’s commanding officer, Capt. Kenneth Boda, said the crew assisted teams of scientists in gathering invaluable data and information throughout their deployment. “This research will be shared with laboratories, universities and institutions around the world to support research focused on the changing Arctic environment,” Boda said.

Healy deploys annually to the Arctic in support of oceanographic research and Operation Arctic Shield, an annual operation to execute Coast Guard missions, enhance maritime domain awareness, and build preparedness, prevention and response capabilities across the Arctic.

Healy, one of just two active polar icebreakers in the Coast Guard fleet, is capable of breaking four feet of ice continuously and up to eight feet of ice while backing and ramming.

The Coast Guard is in the midst of recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to polar regions, and to protect the economic, commercial, environmental and national security of the country. Construction of a new lead polar security cutter from VT Halter Marine Inc, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was awarded in April of 2019, with the vessel to be delivered in 2025.