By Kenny Cook, Boatswain’s Mate First Class, United States Coast Guard
July 27, 2016
Life on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is unique and different from any other job I have had during my Coast Guard career. The Healy’s mission is mainly science-based, although we do maintain a readiness posture in the event we are needed for an emergency or search and rescue operations.
I act as one of the Safety Supervisors for deck evolutions. Everything we do on deck is inherently dangerous. We lift many types of large, heavy, and/or awkward equipment ranging from devices that can collect mud and seafloor samples (box core and trawl), water at different depths (CTD), or even sea creatures unique to this region (remotely operated vehicles and plankton net). We use large cranes and A-frame hoists to lift and then lower the science gear over the side of the boat into the water, oftentimes letting it drop all the way to the ocean floor. We train long and hard to mitigate any possible danger in order to provide the safest working environment possible.
I also, at times, drive the Healy or one of our small boats, which is especially exciting in the ice. Not only can you see forever, but watching a ‘lead,’ or crack, form in the ice as we break through is truly exhilarating.
The Healy has been my home for almost four years now. I will never get tired of coming to the Arctic and taking in the stark beauty of the ice and the environment, but being away from family is the hardest part of deployment by far. Being this far north on the planet comes with technological disadvantages, and we live for those moments when we can get a phone call through or when we receive an email from home. Especially if it includes pictures.
I have loved having space in the hangar to hold CrossFit workouts and classes. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to create a CrossFit “box” for the ship, and we have daily workouts for those who are interested. It's been a great way to break up the deployment, interact “outside of work,” and have something to focus on.
One thing I especially love about my job is being able to tell people what it’s like to be out on the ice at the North Pole, which happened on a different expedition. Having had that opportunity is really indescribable. And, as you might expect, the weather is pretty brutal. The wind, coupled with the arctic temperatures, made it tough to be outside taking in that once in a lifetime experience for very long, but I relished every second of it! Being part of the crew of the first U.S. surface vessel to make it to the North Pole unaccompanied is truly an honor and something I will never forget.
But the very best thing about the Healy is the camaraderie that is unique to a polar icebreaker. Once you have experienced a trip to the Arctic, you are a member of a rather remarkable and exclusive club. There is just something about crossing that 66° north latitude and entering the “Arctic Realm” that is truly unforgettable.