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Coast Guard icebreaker reaches the North Pole in record-breaking trip

The United States Coast Guard today announced that its icebreaker and research vessel Healy successfully reached the North Pole after leaving its Seattle home in June of this year. This trip was one for the history books with Healy earning the honor of being the first US surface vessel to reach the North Pole alone. It also oversaw the first ever and autonomous net capture of a drone by a Coast Guard cutter vessel in Arctic.

Healy was traveling to the Arctic as part of the vessel’s annual Arctic West Summer missions. During its ongoing 2015 trip, Healy has conducted Coast Guard missions that involve remote search and rescue exercises as well as drone flights. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the cutter also is carrying a crew of international scientists as part of Geotraces, a mission to baseline the health and study the changing chemistry of the Arctic ocean. The researchers are adapting the ship for their ocean chemistry experiments with the hope of someday finding answers to perplexing questions such as why mercury is accumulating so quickly in the Arctic food chain.

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Healy is the Coast Guard’s largest and most technologically advanced polar icebreaker and research vessel. It can break through 4.5 feet of ice at a speed of 3 knots, and can operate at extreme temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. The ship has accommodations for 50 scientists who have access to 4,200 square feet of scientific laboratory space.

Besides research and icebreaker activities, the vessel also is involved in ship escort and search and rescue operations in the Arctic region. You can follow the Healy as it explores the Arctic via the weekly mission updates and daily photos from the aloft conning tower.