USCGC Healy (WAGB-20)

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USCGC Healy (WAGB-20)
United States
Name: USCGC Healy
Namesake: Michael A. Healy
Builder: Avondale Shipyard
Laid down: 16 September 1996
Launched: 15 November 1997
Commissioned: 10 November 1999
Motto: Promise and Deliver
Status: In service
  • Crest-Healy.jpg
  • Crest of the USCGC Healy
General characteristics
Displacement: 16,000 long tons (16,257 t)
Length: 420 ft (128 m)
Beam: 82 ft (25 m)
Draft: 29 ft 3 in (8.92 m)
Installed power:
  • 4 × Sulzer 12ZAV40S
  • 34,560 kW (combined)
  • 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) (maximum)
  • 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) (cruising)
  • 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) in 4.5 ft (1.4 m) ice
  • 19 officers
  • 12 CPO
  • 54 enlisted
  • 51 scientists
Aircraft carried:
Notes: 5 laboratories: Main, Bio-Chemical, Electronics, Meteorological, Photography

USCGC Healy (WAGB-20) is a United States Coast Guard research icebreaker commissioned in 1999. She is classified as a medium icebreaker by the U.S. Coast Guard.[1] On September 5, 2015, USCGC HEALY became the first unaccompanied United States surface vessel to reach the North Pole.


Healy was constructed by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana and named in honor of United States Revenue Cutter Service Captain Michael A. Healy. Her keel was laid on 16 September 1996. A spectacular launch followed on 15 November 1997, where 20 people were injured when a larger than expected wave of muddy water and debris created by the vessel's launch hit a viewing stand.[2] Delivered to the US Coast Guard and placed "In Commission, Special"[clarification needed] on 10 November 1999, Healy joined the icebreakers USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) and USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) in their homeport of Seattle, Washington. The ship departed New Orleans on 26 January 2000, performing sea trials off of San Juan, Puerto Rico and in Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland. She arrived in Seattle on 9 August 2000 after transiting the famed Northwest Passage and was placed "In Commission, Active" on 21 August 2000.


Healy escorts Renda through ice in the Bering Sea in January 2012.
Healy in Washington waters in November 2002.
Healy and the Geotraces science team have their portrait taken at the North Pole Sept. 7, 2015. Healy reached the pole on Sept. 5, becoming the first U.S. surface vessel to do so unaccompanied.

Designed to conduct a wide range of research activities, Healy provides more than 4,200 square feet (390 m2) of scientific laboratory space, numerous electronic sensor systems, oceanographic winches, and accommodations for up to 50 scientists. Healy is also designed to break 4.5 ft (1.4 m) of ice continuously at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) or ice 10 ft (3.0 m) thick when backing and ramming, and can operate in temperatures as low as −50 °F (−46 °C). The science community provided input on lab layouts and science capabilities during design and construction of the ship.

As a Coast Guard cutter, Healy is also a platform for supporting other potential missions in the polar regions, including: search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection, and enforcement of laws and treaties.


The Commanding Officer (CO) is Captain Jason Hamilton. Captain Hamilton assumed command of Healy in May, 2015.[3]

In August and September 2010, the ship assisted the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Natural Resources Canada, Geological Survey of Canada, in conducting bathymetric and geophysical surveys in the Beaufort Sea and eastern Arctic Ocean.[4]

In January 2012, Healy escorted the Russian-flagged freighter Renda through the pack ice to deliver an emergency supply of fuel to Nome, Alaska. Such a winter delivery had never been attempted before because the ice floes are 1 to 5 feet (0.30 to 1.52 m) thick during the winter season.[5]

A group of researchers from the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory tested their "Submarine Team Behaviors Tool" with the Healy crew in September 2013. They were part of the 50 person science team from the USCG Research and Development Center whose mission was to evaluate technology for the recovery of "simulated oil trapped in or under ice at the polar ice edge".[6]

Between May and October 2015, Healy tested the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) high frequency satellite communication system throughout its Arctic Summer West 2015 mission. Successful tests were completed throughout the expedition during the transit to the North Pole.


On 17 August 2006, Lieutenant Jessica Hill and PO2 Stephen Duque died of unspecified causes during diving operations in the Arctic Ocean. The Coast Guard conducted simultaneous safety and administrative investigations the results of which were made public in January 2007[7][8] along with a Final Decision Letter dated 23 August 2007.[9]

Initial press reports indicated that the divers were conducting an inspection of the rudder - a routine operation - at the time of the accident, but later reports stated that the two were doing a cold-water training dive near the bow of the ship. The dive was reported to have been planned for a maximum depth of 20 feet (6 m). Lieutenant Hill's father, citing autopsy reports, has indicated that his daughter actually reached a depth of near 200 feet (61 m) in what he described as an out of control descent. The divers were tended by unqualified and poorly-instructed personnel on the surface, none of whom were familiar with cold water diving or scuba diving in general.[10] It is not clear why they extended so much line to the divers. By the time the two could be pulled to the surface, gas reserves were empty and neither diver could be revived.[11]

On August 30, Commanding Officer Captain Douglas G. Russell was temporarily relieved of command by Vice Admiral Charles Wuster citing a "loss of confidence" in Russell's ability to command.[12] The relief was later made permanent by Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. Russell was initially replaced by Captain Daniel K. Oliver, the previous Healy Commanding officer who Russell had relieved only two months earlier. Oliver returned to his regular staff job a short time later, when Captain Ted Lindstrom was named the new commanding officer. Lindstom has commanded four previous Coast Guard cutters, and was Chief of Response for the Coast Guard's 13th District in Seattle, Washington prior to returning to sea.[13]

On September 5, 2015, the Healy became the first U.S. surface ship in history to reach the North Pole unaccompanied (The USS Nautilus was the first watercraft to reach the North Pole on 3 August 1958). The trip was undertaken in support of the National Science Foundation's GEOTRACES project.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1], USCGC Healy website.
  2. ^ "Coast Guard ship launch goes awry, injures viewers". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. 16 November 1997. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ 2010 Joint United States-Canadian Program to Explore the Limits of the Extended Continental Shelf Aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy--Cruise HLY1002: August 2-September 6, 2010, Dutch Harbor to Barrow, Alaska. United States Geological Survey
  5. ^ "Coast Guard Helping Icebreaker Reach Fuel-Stricken Alaska City". Fox News. Associated Press. 8 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  6. ^ Pinto, Maria D (2013-10-24). "NSMRL: At the top of the world". The Dolphin. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  7. ^ Allen, Thad W. (12 January 2007). "USCG Commandant's Statement" (pdf). Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  8. ^ Allen, Thad W. (10 January 2007). "Final Action Memorandum" (pdf). Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  9. ^ Papp, Robert J, Jr (23 August 2007). "Final Decision Letter" (pdf). Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  10. ^ Kime, Patricia (12 January 2007). "CG report cites multiple failures in diving deaths". Navy Times. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  11. ^ Karlinsky, Neal (22 November 2006). "200-Foot Plunge Killed Coast Guard Divers". ABC News. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  12. ^ Barber, Mike (31 August 2006). "Coast Guard skipper out over 2 diving deaths". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  13. ^ Johnson, Gene (30 August 2006). "New Healy captain named after deaths of 2 Coast Guard divers". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  14. ^ "US Coast Guard Cutter Healy reaches North Pole". Stars and Stripes. 8 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 

External links[edit]