Coast Guard Cutter Healy: Mission Update Sep. 1, 2013

We check in again with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420-foot Seattle-based polar icebreaker, as they continue their Arctic West Summer 2013 deployment. Republished with permission from Ensign Rebecca Follmer, a member of the ship’s operations department and public affairs officer aboard Healy.

Hello friends and family!


View of the ice duirng coring. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Rebecca Follmer.

Happy September everyone! I can’t believe August is over already. Time flies when you’re having fun I suppose.

At the beginning of this week, the weather was spectacular! There were clear blue skies and lots of sunshine for several days. With such beautiful weather came some very pretty icescape pictures. The calm, gorgeous weather also allowed us to conduct science operations and hold station with little effort required to fight the elements. Nice and smooth coring operations were a result.


Buoy deployment to the ice MYHF. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Jacob Cass.

Based on radarsat ice imagery, we invested some time searching for a suspected ice shelf. Ice shelves look like a tabular iceberg, but are formed from the bottom up over very long periods of time. Upon arriving on scene, the piece of ice was thick, but not as thick as expected. It turns out it was not an ice shelf, but was a very thick multi-year hummocked floe. Pieces of ice like the one encountered can have keels up to 65.6-feet (20 meters) deep. We placed a drifter buoy on the ice to ensure it can be tracked.


Screenshot from the sub-bottom profiler of a pingo-like feature. This instrument interprets the first 328+ feet (100+ meters) of sediment below the ocean floor. The layered sediments are the targets of the current mission. Screenshot by Woody Sutherland, SIO.

Our big accomplishment this week was being the first group to core the hydrolaccoliths north of Canada. Hydrolaccoliths, more commonly known as pingo-like features, are like little mud volcanoes. Gases are released from the permafrost in the ocean sediments. As the gas tries to escape, it pushes its way up through the sediments and mud, pushing up the mud into an ocean floor pimple if you will. The depths in this area are always uncertain because of these pingo-like features, but we traveled through the area and cored a few for the sake of science. The resulting cores are expected to provide the highest resolution climate record of the region, and are expected to date back over 10,000 years.


AEO’s promotion to lieutenant commander. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Rebecca Follmer.

This week also marked the promotion of our very own Assistant Engineer Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Dufresne. Congratulations AEO on your promotion from lieutenant to lieutenant commander!

And so this entry comes full circle to talk about weather again. Only this time, the weather was not so nice. Up to 80 mph gusts and 25-foot seas met us as we were transiting between science stations Saturday. I don’t know if King Neptune was having a tantrum, but the ship was rocking and rolling to the rhythm of the pounding waves. Normal bright faces had a tinge of green added, as the crew worked to secure the ship for sea during the storm. We were lucky, though, since we have a ship that rides well. I couldn’t imagine being on a smaller ship and facing the same storm again, but I know many of the more seasoned crew members have ridden through such a storm on previous assignments.


View of the foc’sle and waves from the safety of a stateroom. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Rebecca Follmer.

Thank you for reading and for your continued support of the ship and our crew. To read past updates please see earlier blogposts on the Coast Guard Alaska Blog or visit our webpage.

Very respectfully,

Ensign Rebecca Follmer
Public Affairs Officer

Ex Arctic Scientia
“From the Arctic, Knowledge”

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