Artist’s sketchbook: Just below freezing

Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy are currently supporting scientific research in the dynamic waters of the north on their Arctic West Summer 2013 deployment. As watchstsanders and scientists alike collaborate to collect vital scientific data, they are joined by artist Bob Selby.

Last week we shared the first moments aboard Healy, including scientists preparing to board the ship and the crew navigating the ship as Healy pulled out of port. This week the ship is at a science station 335 miles north of the Arctic Circle where the wind chill stands at 19 and the crew is experiencing 20 percent ice coverage. “Artist’s sketchbook” continues with a peek into life aboard the ship – from a routine haircut to measuring brittle stars from the latest trawl.


A Little off the top. Lt. j.g. Kris Valdez gets a trim in the Healy barber shop.


Today and tomorrow. Our first sighting of Big and Little Diomede islands occurs in fair weather with good visibility. There’s only a ribbon of mist to grace the rocky escarpments and the seas smooth to glass as we approach.

Big Diomede on the left is Russia. Little Diomede on the right is the United states. Beyond lies Siberia to the left with Alaska opposite. The international date line parses the strait between the islands so we are, in effect, sailing the line between today and tomorrow. We are just below the The Arctic Circle but we will pause here to test the scientific apparatus and ship’s winches before we sail for the first test station. The midnight sun ought to provide ample light.

Sick Bay

Sick bay. In order to operate independently in polar regions, the Healy carries the largest and most complete sick bay in the Coast Guard fleet. The icebreaker’s sickbay includes an X-ray machine, a lab for testing and, to provide extra protection for the 44 civilian scientists aboard, a physician assistant. Lt. Charity Keplinger of Guam is sketched here on the right talking to Petty Officer 1st Class Erin Hunter, a health services technician from San Diego.

Bongo nets

“Bongo” nets. Sunday morning, August 4. 72 degrees north and 162 degrees west. The air temperature is just below freezing but the wind chill stands at 19, freezing yesterday’s rain across the rails and decks. Even so, we only have 20 percent ice coverage as we take up a science station 335 miles north of the Arctic Circle. From the crane above the Healy fan tail the nickname for the twin zooplankton nets becomes clear as the Healy crew maneuvers it aft to lower over the stern for yet another experiment. Here Petty Officer 2nd Class Blaine Bichsel, a boatswain’s mate from Wisconsin, signals the winch operators to “take her up” as Dr. Carin Ashjian, lead principal investigator from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the rest of the deck crew look on.

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