An icebreaker crew has scored one of exploration's hardiest achievements: sailing to the North Pole.
Cutter Healy arrived at latitude 90 degrees north on Saturday, becoming is the first U.S. surface ship to make it to the tiop of the Earth unaccompanied. It is one of only four trips to the pole and the first since 2005, the release said.
The Seattle-based crew and its scientists — Healy is used primarily for oceanic research — are underway in support of Geotraces, an expedition with the National Science Foundation to measure air, ice, snow, seawater, meltwater and ocean bottom sediment baselines for the region, where the Coast Guard plans to increase its presence as more frozen passages along the Arctic Ocean open to fishing, shipping and oil exploration.
As polar ice continues to melt and the Coast Guard looks ahead to spending more and more time at the planet's northernmost stretches, the cutter Healy pulled into the North Pole on Saturday, according to a Pacific Area release.
Healy, one of the service's three heavy icebreakers and one of only two in service right now, reached the North Pole days after President Obama announced his plan to push Congress to fund more icebreakers for the service.
It took the 145 crewmembers and scientists a little under a month to reach the top of the world, after leaving Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on Aug. 9.
Submarines routinely operate in the Arctic and are able to smash through sea ice to surface. On its recently completed six-month deployment, the attack sub Seawolf surfaced at the North Pole in late July.
The Healy measures 420 feet long, weighs in at 16,000 tons and can use its 30,000 horsepower to break over 10 feet of ice at a time.
"As the Arctic region continues to open up to development, the data gathered onboard Healy during this cruise will become ever more essential to understanding how the scientific processes of the Arctic work and how to most responsibly exercise stewardship over the region," the Coast Guard said in a release. release said,