Sunday, March 15, 2009

The USCGC HEALY is underway for Arctic West Summer 2009 and in the ICE!

From the USCGC HEALY this past week:


While I need not say more, I will, lest we take for granted the things the Healy crew -- Coast Guard and Scientists -- undertake on behalf of national, and international, interests.  It's useful to recall conditions that mariners and scientists around the globe endure for the sake of learning more about the oceans.

The Healy embarked Seattle on March 4, 2009 for its Arctic West Summer 2009 (AWS 09) deployment.   Before reaching the "perfect day" recorded above, the Healy crew endured some pretty punishing gales and accompanying rolls (up to some 28 degrees) crossing from Dixon Entrance to Chatham Strait, en route to Kodiak a few days back.  

The Healy is underway for AWS 09 in support of the Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST), "a multi-year project sponsored by the National Science Foundation that studies the ecological processes of sea ice as it retreats through the Bering Sea.” BEST program scientists at sea and at several locations around the US are studying connections between "external forcing mechanisms and hydrographic structure and physical processes", between "physical aspects of the marine environment and the response of the biota of the eastern Bering Sea" and developing tools with "the goal of forecasting how the ecosystem might be expected to behave under different climate scenarios." Data gathered for BEST includes Benthic, Biology, Hydrography, Ice, Local Traditional Knowledge, Meteorology, Microbiology, Optics, Plankton, Productivity and Water Chemistry.

Views from the Healy the Healy aloft con are updated hourly at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The Healy's trackline is available at Icefloe.  Note that a new beta track using Google Map is available at Icefloe as well, and provides ship information at each marker plotted there.

The Healy will return to Seattle in May following this three month deployment. When it embarks again, the Healy will head for the Arctic Ocean for the rest of the arctic summer. As occurred in 2008, the Healy will spend part of its 2009 deployment in joint mapping of the Arctic Extended Continental Shelf with the Canadian Icebreaker, the Louis St Laurent.

Thanks to LDEO for the photo (with Steve Roberts) and trackline (with Tom Cook).  

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.