Adventures of an Icebreaker: 133 days, 22,000 miles - the Healy returns home

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Healy sails by Shoreline after a 133 day deployment circumnavigating North America.
Photo by Jan Hansen

SEATTLE — The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) returned to their Seattle homeport Saturday following a 22,000-mile, 133-day deployment circumnavigating North America.

The Healy in Elliot Bay. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Strohmaier.

The crew aboard Healy, a 420-ft. medium icebreaker, provided U.S. surface presence in the Arctic, supported high-latitude oceanographic research missions, participated in an international search-and-rescue exercise, and engaged in passing exercises with surface vessels from the U.S. Navy, Canadian Navy, and Mexican Navy.

The crew aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) approach the pier at Base Seattle Saturday, November 20, after completing a 22,000-mile, 133-day deployment circumnavigating North America. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark

Healy’s crew hosted members of the international science community and institutions from the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark who conducted oceanographic research throughout the Arctic including the Northwest Passage and within Baffin Bay to monitor environmental change.

Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) crew members and a team of international scientists deploy an autonomous glider into Disko Bay on Sept. 19, 2021. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Matthew Masaschi.

Healy crew members also facilitated 430 over-the-side casts of various scientific instruments including a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) array that requires the cutter to station keep as wire lowers and recovers the instrument from below the surface. Additionally, Healy mapped over 20,000-square kilometers of the seafloor, including 12,000-square kilometers of previously unmapped regions, throughout the patrol.

An aircrew aboard a Canadian coast guard Bell 429 helicopter prepares to land aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) while near Resolute, Nunavut, Canada on Sept. 6, 2021. Healy’s crew conducted a professional exchange with members of the Canadian coast guard prior to commencing a joint search and rescue exercise with the two Services and the Canadian Rangers. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer First Class Michael Underwood.

Healy transited north of Canada via the Northwest Passage, where the crew rendezvoused with members of the Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Rangers for a search-and-rescue exercise. The crew transited south of Mexico via the Panama Canal on their way home. Healy’s deployment supported the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy while providing critical training opportunities for future icebreaker sailors.

Royal Canadian Navy Lt. Sebastien Savard plots the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy's (WAGB 20) course and location on a chart while operating in Baffin Bay, Sept. 16, 2021. Sevard, a crewmember aboard HMCS REGINA homeported in Victoria, BC, is sailing aboard Healy along with five other temporary duty officers from the Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Matt Masaschi

“Healy’s crew demonstrated their tremendous dedication to duty while carrying out the Coast Guard’s Arctic mission, operating in some of the harshest regions in the world,” said Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s Commanding Officer Capt. Kenneth Boda. 
“They assisted teams of scientists in gathering invaluable data and information throughout the deployment. This research will be shared with laboratories, universities and institutions around the world to support research focused on the changing Arctic environment.”

While transiting down the east coast of the United States and back up the west coast of Mexico, Healy engaged in multiple outreach events including passing exercises, professional exchanges, and embarking distinguished visitors to bolster relations with other nations.

Members of Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s temporary regional dive locker team conduct a familiarization dive in the Chukchi Sea, July 26, 2021. During the Healy’s Northwest Passage deployment, the cutter and crew are operating within first year and multiyear ice throughout the Arctic and documenting how variable Arctic summer weather conditions impact Coast Guard operations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Janessa Warschkow.

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

Spotlights illuminate the ice on the Beaufort Sea ahead of Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) while en route to the Northwest Passage on Sept. 1, 2021. Healy’s deployment marks its first transit through the Northwest Passage since 2003. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Matt Masaschi.

Commissioned in 2000, Healy is one of two active polar icebreakers in the Coast Guard’s fleet. Healy is capable of breaking 4 feet of ice continuously and up to 8 feet of ice while backing and ramming.

The U.S. Coast Guard is recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to the Polar Regions and protect the country's economic, commercial, environmental, and national security interests.

Commander Philip Baxa, operations officer aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20), hugs his family at the Base Seattle pier Saturday, Nov. 20. Commander Baxa and the crew arrived at their homeport of Seattle after a 22,000-mile, 133-day deployment circumnavigating North America. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark.

The Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, through an integrated program office, on April 23, 2019, awarded VT Halter Marine Inc., of Pascagoula, Mississippi, a fixed-price incentive contract for the detail, design and construction of the lead Polar security cutter with contract delivery planned for 2025.

--Coast Guard Pacific Area News

Additional photos from Healy's deployment are available here.
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