CGC Healy – Arctic Survey Boat operations

The Arctic Survey Boat getting undersay from the Healy to conduct science casts. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Cadet 1/c Courtney Elder.

The Arctic Survey Boat, or ASB, is a small boat carried on Polar Class icebreakers like the CGC Healy for use in operations on the water. The boat is 37 feet 6 inches long with a crew made up of a Coxswain, a crewmember and an engineer.

This post comes to us from the Healy’s Public Affairs Officer, Ensign Emily Kehrt, about 70 miles Northwest of Point Barrow, Alaska.

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Most afternoons, we launch the Healy’s Arctic Survey Boat (ASB), and send a group of researchers from NASA to collect optical information in the undisturbed water away from the ship. Launching and operating a small boat in the Arctic, where weather and visibility can change suddenly and ice poses a constant threat, presents a unique set of challenges to our Deck Division.

Small boat operations are crucial to our science operations this mission, and we launch the ASB as frequently as possible. If Healy is in open water, conducting ASB operations is typically a straightforward procedure, as long as the wind and sea state remain within the parameters required for using the small boat. However, at times we launch the ASB in a polyna, or an area of open water surrounded by ice floes.

BM1 Try Huneycutt talks on the radio during ASB operations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Cadet 1/c Courtney Elder.

“In the ice, most of the challenge is moving ice,” said BM1 Trey Huneycutt, ASB coxswain. “We may have an open area to launch, but during the mission the ice is continually moving. As coxswain, I continually scan the area to ensure we have an open area to return to Healy.”

Ice can also prove challenging when scientists and crewmembers are conducting scientific casts off of the ASB. Large, loose chunks of ice that drift towards the ASB while science equipment is in the water can prove hazardous to the equipment and to the success of the experiment. In order to prevent this, the boat crewmembers use long “ice poles” with which they try to redirect pieces of ice that threaten the experiment, and the coxswain maneuvers the ship to avoid ice without compromising the gear in the water.

The ASB crewmembers are vital to the success of these missions. They, along with the coxswain, are responsible for conducting a boat brief and risk assessment before ASB operations begin. They assist the coxswain with safe navigation and line handling, help the science party members with operating the winches and capstans necessary for deploying and recovering their gear and they handle radio communications back to the Healy.

ME2 Tony Siciak collects a water sample from the ASB. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Cadet 1/c Courtney Elder.

Many members of the ASB crew are also qualified watchstanders on HEALY, from Junior Officers of the Deck, to Officers of the Deck, to Technicians of the Watch. After an afternoon in the ASB, these folks come back to the ship and continue to support the Healy’s mission. The teamwork and dedication that are required for long deployments in the Arctic are exemplified in the ASB team.

We’ve only got a few more days in the ice before we begin our transit down to Seward, Alaska, for a week of rest. Then we head back up to the ice cap for our next mission of the summer.

Stay tuned for more,
Ensign Emily Kehrt

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