U.S. icebreaker reaches North Pole

The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy and the Geotraces science team have their portrait taken at the North Pole.

The U.S. Coast Guard vessel Healy became the first U.S. surface ship to reach the North Pole unaccompanied. 


Healy” arrived at the North Pole on September 5, with a crew and science party of 145 people on board. The vessel departed Dutch Harbor, Alaska on August 9 in support of GEOTRACES, an international effort to study the geochemistry of the world’s oceans.

This National Science Foundation funded expedition is focused on studying the Arctic Ocean to meet a number of scientific goals, including the creation of baseline measurements of the air, ice, snow, seawater, meltwater and ocean bottom sediment for future comparisons. 

This is only the fourth time a U.S. surface vessel has ever reached the North Pole, and the first since 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard writes in a press release.

Healy” is the United States’ newest high-latitude vessel and was commissioned in 1999. It is a 128 meters, 16.000 tons large icebreaker, designed to break 1.4 m of ice continuously at 3 knots.

In addition to performing the Coast Guard’s other statutory missions such as law enforcement and search and rescue, “Healy” is a research platform with extensive laboratory spaces, multiple oceanographic deck winches, and berthing for 50 scientists. 

Healy” is one of only two operational icebreakers the United States have. The other one – “Polar Star”, is located in Seattle but is not in active service.