The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy sliced through meters of dense ice to become the first American surface ship to ever reach the North Pole last week.
An icebreaker from the U.S. Coast Guard, the cutter Healy, has earned the honor of being the first American ship to reach the North Pole by itself. According to a report from Discovery News, the Seattle-based ship reached the pole on September 5, where it will conduct research on the barren environment at the top of the world.
Recent warming in the Arctic region has allowed for increased access to the North Pole and its virtually untapped natural resources. Nations with borders around the Arctic Circle are eyeing the vast reserves of oil, gas, minerals, and potential shipping routes as the ice cover gives way to open ocean.
The data gathered aboard the Healy will offer new insights into how the environment in the Arctic works, which will inform scientists as the inevitable push for resource exploitation becomes stronger.
President Barack Obama announced last week that he would speed up the completion of a new icebreaker, bringing the total U.S. operational fleet to three. Regions in the Arctic are increasingly contested by Russia, Canada, the U.S., and surprisingly Denmark, and a strong presence is necessary to deter conflict.
The Healy is the first unaccompanied American surface vessel to reach the North Pole, but submarines regularly reach the pole after traveling under the ice. The ship is 420 feet long and weights about 16,000 tons, and has an 30,000 horsepower engine that can cut through over 10 feet of ice.
145 crew members and scientists were aboard the ship for the historic voyage, and hopefully the data collected can lead to the responsible stewardship of one of the last untouched environments on the planet.