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WAGB-20 Healy

The Coast Guard Cutter HEALY (WAGB - 20) is United States' newest and most technologically advanced polar icebreaker. The Healy primarily supports Arctic research. Although the Healy is capable of carrying out a wide range of activities, it cannot operate independently in the ice conditions in the Antarctic or ensure timely access to some Arctic areas in the winter. Healy cannot reach ice-covered areas with more than 4 feet of ice.

HEALY is designed to conduct a wide range of research activities, providing more than 4,200 square feet of scientific laboratory space, numerous electronic sensor systems, oceanographic winches, and accommodations for up to 50 scientists. HEALY is designed to break 4.5 feet of ice continuously at three knots and can operate in temperatures as low as -50 degrees F. The science community provided invaluable input on lab lay-outs and science capabilities during design and construction of the ship.

The Healy' s primary mission is to function as a world class high latitude research platform. Healy will be employed in icebreaking operations during all seasons in the Arctic and Antarctic. All the ships systems are designed to function for extended winter operations in these areas including intentional wintering over. Arctic missions will include service as a scientific platform and ice escort to vessels supporting Arctic installations. Antarctic missions include support of the U.S. Antarctic Program in scientific research projects, ice escort of supply vessels, transport of cargo and passengers, and support of Antarctic Treaty inspection teams.

Healy has state-of-the-art fully automated systems for control of the ship and the machinery plant. Ship control is provided at three conning stations with five conning positions. The bridge also has an integrated navigation system, and a steering control system. The ship's aviation facilities include a flight deck, hangar complex and helicopter control station capable of supporting two HH-65A Dolphin helicopters. The flight deck is certified for both day and night operations and is capable of handling vertical replenishment and helicopter in-flight refueling operations.

At a time when scientific interest in the Arctic Ocean basin is intensifying, HEALY substantially enhances the United States Arctic research capability. As a Coast Guard cutter, HEALY is also a capable platform for supporting other potential missions in the polar regions, including logistics, search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection, and enforcement of laws and treaties.

The USCGC HEALY (WAGB 20) provides a highly dedicated scientific platform with the search and rescue, and resupply services which have become the hallmark of the United States' icebreaking fleet for over 100 years. USCGC HEALY (WAGB 20) was constructed by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her keel was laid on September 16, 1996. A spectacular launch followed on November 15, 1997. Delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard and placed "In Commission, Special" on November 10, 1999, HEALY joined the icebreakers POLAR STAR (WAGB 10) and POLAR SEA (WAGB 11) in their homeport of Seattle, Washington. The ship departed New Orleans on January 26th, 2000, arrived in Seattle on August 9th, 2000 and was placed "In Commission, Active" on August 21st, 2000.

In January 2003, the Healy deployed to assist the USCGC Polar Sea with Operation Deep Freeze 2003. Heavy ice conditions, documented as the worse conditions in 50 years, necessitated the need for two icebreaking cutters. The cutters assured McMurdo Station, Antarctica, received necessary supplies to continue operations.

The science upgrades of the Polar-class vessels suffice in meeting current requirements for research support in the Arctic. However, to meet the expanding needs of the future, the Coast Guard, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, commissioned a new research platform dedicated to Arctic science. This new vessel, the USCGC Healy, was completed in early 1999. The Healy is 420 feet long, has a beam of 82 feet, and displaces 16,000 long tons when fully loaded. The maximum speed will be 17 knots, with a range of 16,000 nautical miles at 12.5 knots.

Scientific support capabilities of the Healy greatly surpasses those provided by the Polar-class icebreakers. The ship is able to accommodate 35 scientists on a routine basis and provide surge accommodations for up to 50. There are over 3000 square feet of dedicated laboratory space, including a main science lab, a wet science lab, a biochemistry analysis lab, an electronics lab, a meteorology lab, and a photography lab. In addition the Healy has five hydraulically operated cranes, two oceanographic winches, and a double drum core/trawl winch. It also provides over 4000 square feet of open deck space and 20,000 cubic feet of scientific storage space in three cargo holds. Installed bathymetric and oceanographic instrumentation include an echo sound processor and depth digitizer, a Seabeam bottom mapping sonar system, an XBT acquisition unit, and an acoustic Doppler current profiler. Lab spaces is equipped with a Science Data Network providing 120 dual fiber-optic connected Ethernet ports throughout the science spaces for real-time data transfer between data processors, workstations and printers.

Michael Healy was uninterested in academic pursuits and so began a seagoing career as a cabin boy aboard the American East Indian Clipper JUMNA in 1854. He quickly became an expert seaman and rose to the rank of officer on merchant vessels. In 1886, he became Commanding Officer of the cutter BEAR, taking her into Alaskan waters for the first time. Here he remained until 1895. Although already held in high regard as a seaman and navigator in the waters of Alaska, it was as Commanding Officer of BEAR that Healy truly made his mark in history. During the last two decades of the 19th Century, Captain Healy was the United States Government in most of Alaska. In his twenty years of service between San Francisco and Point Barrow, he acted as: judge, doctor, and policemen to Alaskan natives, merchant seamen and whaling crews.

Even in the early days of Arctic operations, science was an important part of the mission. Renowned naturalist John Muir made a number of voyages with Healy during the 1880's as part of an ambitious scientific program. With the reduction in the seal and whale populations, he introduced reindeer from Siberia to Alaska to provide food, clothing and other necessities for the native peoples.

The primary instrument in Healy's capable hands, to accomplish all of this, was the cutter BEAR, probably the most famous ship in the history of the Coast Guard. Under "Hell Roaring Mike", BEAR became legendary as "Healy's Fire Canoe". Healy and BEAR proved to be a perfect match, a marriage of vessel capability and unrivaled ice seamanship that became legend.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2019 14:30:20 ZULU