From: NOAA
Published September 6, 2017 08:08 AM

No ice to break

Our research cruise is being conducted this year from the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the newest and most technologically advanced icebreaker in the U.S. fleet.  The Healy was built down around the humid bayous of New Orleans, but was designed to conquer Arctic sea ice.  The boat is a behemoth at 420 feet long and has made its way to the North Pole on several occasions, taking thousands of scientists into the Arctic to collect data that has transformed our understanding of the region.

Something has changed though in the last few years.  The Healy has been having a hard time finding any ice to break. The average sea-ice extent in June 2017 was 350,000 square miles smaller than the long-term historical average. That represents a loss of sea ice almost twice the size of Texas.

The opening of the Arctic is allowing increased commercial ship traffic and in 2016, for the first time, more than 1,000 passengers sailed on the Crystal Serenity from Anchorage to New York through once ice-choked waters. The cruise ship is making the same voyage this year. While the Healy has been responsible for patrolling the Arctic, its mission is expanding as fast as the ice is disappearing. The ship and its more than 80 crewmembers will be the first responders to any disaster in the Arctic, from vessel emergencies to oil spills.


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Photo via NOAA.

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