Polar News

Coast Guard Cutter Reaches Northwest Passage, Supports Marine Mammal Research

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple reached the Northwest Passage 3 August 2017, during their historic voyage accompanied by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier and crew underway in the Amundsen Gulf, Canada.

The Maple crew has transited 3,014 miles since they departed Sitka July 12. The cutter is serving as a ship of opportunity to conduct scientific research in support of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Maple crew has deployed a sonographic buoy used to record acoustic sounds of marine mammals and assisted the research scientist aboard the cutter analyze the data retrieved from the buoys.

The crew used their buoy-tending skills and equipment to recover a high-frequency acoustic recording package (HARP) that is attached to the buoy. The device was developed by the Whale Acoustics Laboratory at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and is used to record underwater sound in a broad range of frequencies, including the sounds made by Arctic marine mammals. The crew also assisted the scientists with zooplankton sampling and measuring the properties of seawater at various depths and locations after a successful recovery and reset of the HARP.

“One of our primary missions during this transit is to provide scientific support,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Armstrong, commanding officer of the Maple. “Maple is scheduled for a year-long dry dock in Baltimore this August for repairs and upgrades. It is exciting to transit the Northwest Passage with an opportunity to assist with research aimed at understanding various species in this remote part of the world. Protecting life here begins with understanding it.”

The Maple crew will conclude their historic voyage in Baltimore, Maryland, 23 August. The cutter will undergo scheduled maintenance in dry dock at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore for repairs and upgrades. The crew will return to Sitka to take command of the 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, which was previously homeported in Honolulu.

This transit is a coordinated effort with the Canadian Coast Guard, and the planned activities reflect the long history of collaboration among our two Coast Guards including under the 1988 Canada-US Agreement on Arctic Cooperation.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage. The crews the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador, charted, recorded water depths and installed aids to navigation for future shipping lanes from May to September of 1957. All four crews became the first deep-draft ships to sail through the Northwest Passage, which are several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.

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