Category Archives: Arctic

View From Above

This is video from my flight aboard a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaking ice in the Arctic Ocean during the Healy’s summer voyage in 2009.

It was one of the best days of my career and an experience I will never forget.



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One Day in Barrow Alaska

BARROW, Ak. – On my way to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy I stopped in Barrow Alaska and this is what I came across.

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Polar Party

Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent and Coast Guard Cutter Healy

ARCTIC OCEAN – The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent came alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Healy and the ships tied up so the crews could enjoy a day long morale event aboard the Healy Sept. 5, 2009.

The 2009 Arctic Barbeque, the day’s main event, featured a “surf and turf” menu.  For the turf offerings, the Healy’s cooks prepared steak, chili and pulled pork.  The Canadians prepared smoked salmon, shrimp, scallops and lobster.

090905-G-8744K-434smPaul Delvin, chief cook of the Louis S. St-Laurent, prepared an enormous cheese platter comprised of fine cheeses from all over the world served atop an eight-foot-long mirror.  “The crew usually only gets processed cheese, so for morale events I like to break out the good stuff,” said Delvin.

After the meal, the crews competed in the inaugural Arctic Olympics.  Cribbage, foosball, air hockey and a number of interactive video games were just a few of the premier events.

Chief Petty Officer Sorjen Manangan represented the Healy as a member of the American air hockey team.

Manangan won his match against Canadian Coast Guard Engineering Cadet Andrew Pearson, but the Canadians rallied and came from behind to claim victory in the air hockey tournament.

“If it would have been air football or something we may have had a chance,” said Manangan.  “I think having the word hockey in the title gave them a mental edge that we just couldn’t overcome,” he joked.

090905-G-8744K-501smThough the Healy crew and science party fought valiantly, it was not enough.  The Canadians won the most events and were crowned champions of the first Arctic games.

“It was all in good fun,” said Navy Petty Officer First Class Richard Lehmkuhl.  “It was a great meal and being able just hang out and take it easy was nice,” he said.

The two ships have been taking part in a multi-year, multi-agency Arctic survey that will help define the Arctic continental shelf.

To download photos of this and other cutter Healy events please visit


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Healy Science Team Makes Mountainous Discovery

seamountARCTIC OCEAN – Scientists aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, using a 12kHz multi-beam echosounder, discovered a new underwater mountain, known as a seamount, on the Arctic floor Aug. 25, 2009.

ResearchThe scientists currently onboard the Healy have been mapping the ocean floor in collaboration with their Canadian counterparts aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent since Aug. 7, 2009, as part of joint U.S. and Canadian efforts to locate the outer edge of the North American continental shelf.

While enroute to map seafloor features targeted for investigation, the scientists had the ship take a slight detour to allow them to map a small contour that had been noted on a 2002 Russian map. As the ship traveled toward the new target, watchstander Christine Hedge, a teacher from Indiana onboard the Healy as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teachers at Sea program, noticed something beginning to appear on the shipboard monitors. She alerted the scientific team in time to redirect the ship, which enabled the scientists to map the seamount in its entirety.

surveyorThe Healy’s high tech mapping system uncovered the seamount, estimated to be at least 1,100 meters tall, in the midst of an otherwise flat and featureless stretch of seafloor approximately 3,800 meters deep. It is located 700 miles north of Alaska.

Underwater features are generally considered seamounts if they reach a height of at least 1,000 meters above the seafloor.

The mapping effort onboard Healy is led by Co-Chief Scientists Dr. Larry Mayer and Capt. Andy Armstrong of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center.

The Great Wall Of Science“From a scientific point of view it’s extremely interesting,” said Armstrong. “It’s in an area where, based on our existing knowledge of the Arctic, we didn’t expect anything to be. So the scientists on this cruise and ashore are going to be looking at this and using this information to recalibrate their understanding of the Arctic,” he said.

The Arctic Ocean is the least explored of the earth’s oceans. While Mayer is satisfied with the finding, he says it’s just the beginning. “This is an exciting discovery, but there are many, many more ahead,” he said.

The area around the seamount has not yet been mapped and is depicted as flat in this illustration.The Healy is participating in the work of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force, a multi-agency project to delimit the outer edges of the U.S. continental shelf.

The yet to be named seamount is the first to be discovered since the 2003 discovery of a seamount that was eventually named Healy.

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Hear Healy

In our last post, “Cross-Blogination,” you may have noticed that titled the article we wrote for them “The Otherworldly Sights and Sounds of the Arctic.” There were a few pictures to help you see what was described in the article, but there was no sound. Today we bring you the other half of the title.

The whooshing sound is slushy ice sliding along the hull and the loud bangs are large chunks of ice that were left in the trail cut by the Canadian ship. If you have served aboard a ship you know just how amazingly strange it is to hear this sound. On most ships you only hear this kind of sound once. The sound that follows is usually some kind of alarm. Having stood inside the bow recording this audio, I believe the word violent best describes the noise.

The audio was captured from inside the bow of the Healy.

(U.S. Coast Guard audio clip by Petty Officer Patrick Kelley)


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On this Healy trip we have several different people emailing blog entries back ashore to people who are posting them.  In fact there is so much blog traffic being generated on Healy that I thought it would be a good idea for us to work together to generate the most possible exposure for each of the ongoing Healy blogs as possible.  Thus, I coined the term “cross-blogination.”   Basically, we have decided to share material so that we can shed a little light on each other while we are also providing new and interesting material to our own unique audience.

So without further delay, here is the first of the hopefully many products of cross-blogination.  It was originally posted to and

The Otherworldly Sights and Sounds of the Arctic

View from my stateroom

August 23, 2009 · Filed Under 2009, Journey

Petty Officer Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard

I am a photographer, videographer and journalist in the U.S. Coast Guard. During this mission, I am onboard Healy to document this historic voyage to map the ocean floor and define the outer reaches of our continental shelf.

If you are reading this, you most likely have an infinitely greater understanding of the complexities of what the science team is doing to accomplish its goals than I do.  You probably know better than I what the significance of 12khz multi-beam sonar is to the oceanographers.  You probably know why pockmarks on the Chukchi Cap are relevant to the geologists.

sunset and sunriseWhat you might not have, however, is an idea of what we aboard Healy are seeing and experiencing.  This region is amazingly unique, awesome, and striking. So instead of offering a feeble attempt to explain the very complicated scientific research underway, I am simply providing you a description of our temporary environment.

We are a little more than two weeks into our journey into the Arctic Ocean, and I am still amazed by what I see each day.  We have seen four polar bears, a few rare birds and many seals.  However, the most incredible feature of the Arctic, in my opinion, is the ice itself.

As we move through the Arctic Ocean, the ice changes from one location to the next. The change is not just the thickness, as I had anticipated, but also the color, density, and texture.  In some areas, the ice looks harsh and unwilling to yield to the weight of Healy, and in other spots it appears that the ice attempts to flee before the ship gets to it. Sometimes when you look out you feel like you are cruising through a snow-covered prairie. The next day, it’s as though you have landed on a rocky, frozen planet and the ship has to blast its way through.

Luis S. St-LaurentWhen it comes to color, you might think only of blue and white as the prevailing colors of the extreme north. While those are the most common colors, just calling them blue and white is not sufficient. I have seen more shades of blue here than any home improvement store paint department could hope to produce, and until I got here, I didn’t even realize there was more than one shade of white.  The frozen pools that form on top of the multi-year ice floes create the most astonishing shade of blue I have ever seen.  The white ice background creates an intense contrast, which makes the blue stand out even more.

When the fog clears enough for the sun to make an appearance, gold becomes an important player in the color scheme of the Arctic. When the sun is out, the ocean water appears to be a deep shade of black. When we are not completely surrounded by ice, the sun reflects off the black water and the bright white of the ice and creates a brilliant golden haze that runs along the horizon. And at this time of the year, the sun does not drop below the horizon; instead, you have a lasting sunset or sunrise.

Healy and LouisIf you are out on deck while the ship is breaking ice, you can actually hear the ice strain under the weight of the hull and snap when the load is too much for the sheet to bear. From inside the ship, you hear a deep rumble when Healy confronts large sheets of ice. The sound of the ship colliding with a smaller chunk of ice is more of a loud bang.

Having spent the majority of my career on boats and cutters, I am still struggling to wrap my mind around the fact that one of Healy’s primary purposes is to go out to sea and run into a major navigational hazard, over and over again.  I guess at some point I won’t flinch when the ship rocks, rolls, and shakes through an eight-foot-thick sheet of ice.

This for me is a once in a lifetime trip that I hope to someday tell my grandkids about. If you are ever offered the opportunity to make your way to the top of the world, do not pass it up. I would hate for you to miss out because no one ever told you how amazing the Arctic Ocean is.

Arctic sky

August 27, 2009

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The Ice Man

The Ice ManARCTIC OCEAN – Below you will find an article created by D-17 Public Affairs.  The article includes a few quotes from the chief scientist at the National Ice Center, Pablo Clemente Colón, who just happens to be underway onboard the Healy right now.  So we figured it would be a good idea to put the article on the Healy blog as well:

Coast Guard assists international science community to study Arctic ice, ocean behavior in Alaska

NOME, Alaska – The Coast Guard in cooperation with several scientific agencies and the International Ice Patrol deployed an ocean drifting buoy in the Arctic Ocean north of the Bering Sea for the very first time Wednesday.

Drift“We are leaning forward to gain a thorough understanding of the cultural, environmental and operational challenges the Coast Guard faces in Northern Alaska and the Arctic domain. As such, we need to project a persistent presence in these remote regions to expand our knowledge of the environment and protect U.S. sovereignty,” said Capt. Robert Phillips, Chief, Incident Management Branch Seventeenth Coast Guard District.  “In order to accomplish these goals we are partnering with the scientific community and other federal agencies, such as NOAA, to join us in collecting data for future operations and a successful road ahead in the Arctic.”

Ocean drifting buoys have been used for research and data collection in the north Atlantic for years. The buoy was deployed from the back of a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules airplane from Air Station Kodiak with the help of personnel from the Coast Guard International Ice Patrol headquartered in New London, Conn. The effort coincides with the Coast Guard’s month-long operations on the North Slope and the summer 2009 expedition of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy.

DSC_0234“This effort signals the beginning of airborne deployments by Coast Guard C-130 Hercules Arctic Domain Awareness flights in support of the buoy network,” said Pablo Clemente-Colón, chief scientist of the National Ice Center and an oceanographer with NOAA who is currently deployed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy.

According to Clemente-Colón the deployment of this open ocean drifting buoy represents a contribution by the U.S. Interagency Arctic Buoy Program (USIABP) to the Arctic Observing Network (AON) and the International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP) to maintain a network of automatic data buoys to monitor synoptic-scale fields of surface air pressure, air temperature, and ice motion throughout the Arctic Ocean.

He noted that the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, participating in the Joint U.S.-Canada Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) mapping mission, is also supporting the deployment of additional ocean drifters, seasonal ice buoys, and ice beacons for the USIABP.

GraphicThe ice drifting buoy uses a modified version of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) buoy. These WOCE buoys are drogued at 50 or 150 feet to track the deep water currents that affect iceberg drift. The drifters also measure the sea surface temperature using a thermister on the underside of the surface float.

The drifters are further equipped with submergence sensors that indicate drogue loss. Buoys without drogues do not follow ocean currents well, because the surface float is significantly affected by winds and waves.

Drifters transmit sensor data to satellites that determine the buoy’s position and relay the data to Argos ground stations. Service Argos provides tracking and data services. The WOCE buoys the International Ice patrol use generally cost about $2,000 each.

The International Ice Patrol deploys between 12 and 15 buoys each year in the Labrador Sea and North Atlantic region. The buoys are either ship deployed by vessels of opportunity or air deployed by Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft during iceberg reconnaissance. Each buoy provides latitude and longitude, sea surface temperature, and submergence information.

DriftThe buoy’s locations and data can be seen at the Drifter Buoy Center or the WMO-IOC Buoy Server.

The United States contribution to the IABP is coordinated through the United States Interagency Arctic Buoy Program (USIABP), which is managed by the National Ice Center (NIC) and the University of Washington Polar Science Center (PSC). The USIABP is a collaborative program that draws operating funds and services from a number of U.S. government organizations and research programs, which include the International Arctic Research Center, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Naval Oceanographic Office, the NIC, the Office of Naval Research, and the U.S. Coast Guard. From these contributions the USIABP acquires and deploys buoys on the Arctic Ocean, and supports the Coordination and Data Management for the IABP by the PSC.

DeploymentFurther information regarding the Coast Guard’s North Slope operations and Operation Arctic Crossroads can be found at the Coast Guard District Seventeen website. The Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s summer and fall 2009 deployment can be followed at the Coast Guard Cutter Healy website where you’ll also find links to blogs from the science crews on board including the Arctic mapping team or the Alaska Logbook click on the CGCHealy label.


August 23, 2009

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