Northwest Passage redux

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage.

The crews the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador, charted, recorded water depths and installed aids to navigation for future shipping lanes from May to September of 1957.

Storis, SPAR and Bramble in the Northwest Passage, 1957, by D. Ellis 1989 via USCGC Spar homepage.

All four crews became the first deep-draft ships to sail through the Northwest Passage, which are several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.

As a nod to that, the 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tender USCGC Maple, accompanied for most of the way by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier under the 1988 Canada-US Agreement on Arctic Cooperation, departed Sitka, Alaska on 12 July and will reach Baltimore, Maryland, 23 August.

Along the way they are conducting scientific research in support of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as well as dropping three sonographic buoys to record acoustic sounds of marine mammals. A principal investigator with the University of San Diego embarked aboard the cutter will analyze the data retrieved from the buoys.

In another milestone that the agency is expanding their polar reach, the Coast Guard dived in the Arctic for the first time since two divers perished in 2006 while on the icebreaker Healy. The mission was supported by Coast Guard Regional Dive Lockers San Diego and Honolulu and U.S. Navy Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility, with the latter providing a portable recompression chamber and a DMT.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Harris, a member of a joint Coast Guard-Navy dive team deployed on the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, holds a Coast Guard ensign during a cold water ice dive off a Healy small boat in the Arctic, July 29, 2017

Healy is also conducting, as part of the RDC Arctic Technology Evaluation, a number of tests of tech in the polar region including the InstantEye small unmanned aircraft system and others.

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