Seattle-based Coast Guard cutter’s journey through the Arctic: No ‘ice liberty’ in changing waters

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2022-02-02 17:35Z by Steven

Seattle-based Coast Guard cutter’s journey through the Arctic: No ‘ice liberty’ in changing waters

The Seattle Times

Hal Bernton, Staff Reporter

The Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the iceberg-laden waters of Baffin Bay near Umanak Fjord, Greenland, on Sept. 24. Healy was designed to support a wide range of Arctic research activities with more than 4,200 square feet of scientific laboratory space, numerous electronic sensor systems, oceanographic winches, and accommodations for a science team. (Chief Petty Officer Matt Masaschi / U.S. Coast Guard)

They call it “ice liberty,” a tradition during the Coast Guard’s maritime missions in Arctic waters. At a thick ice floe, the crew gets to disembark for a brief moment of freedom from the vessel confines. Some play touch football, or bring hockey gear for the occasion. Others just take a stroll.

This year, there was no suitable ice to be found during the Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s northern journey off Alaska and Canada. So the event was canceled.

“A lot of the floes had melt ponds with holes in them like Swiss cheese,” said Capt. Kenneth Boda, commander of the Seattle-based icebreaker. “We couldn’t get the right floe.”

Boda spoke via telephone during a port call in Boston. The vessel is deep into a marathon voyage that began July 10 as the 420-foot ship pulled away from its berth at the Coast Guard base in downtown Seattle and traveled into Arctic waters off Alaska. After a jog south, the Healy headed north again and through the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic

Arctic shipwreck found

A photograph of Captain Mike Healy taken on the quarterdeck of his most famous command, the Revenue Cutter Bear, with his pet parrot. (U.S. Coast Guard)

During the voyage, the Healy crew traversed some of the waters cruised more than a century ago by their vessel’s namesake, “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy, captain of the wooden-hulled U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear from 1886 to 1895.

Healy, who was born into slavery, is a legendary figure in U.S. maritime history. He was the first person of African American descent to command a U.S. government ship, and embarked on annual patrols off Alaska, which covered 15,000 to 20,000 miles.

Healy was a kind of maritime sheriff who helped enforce the law as he acted as “judge, doctor and policeman to Alaska Natives, merchant seamen, and whaling crews,” according to a U.S. Coast Guard history, and also led the Bear on a historic 1884 rescue of starving survivors of an Arctic expedition under command of Army 1st Lt. Adolphus Greely

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Coast Guard: Wreck found in Atlantic is storied cutter Bear

Posted in Articles, History, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-17 03:10Z by Steven

Coast Guard: Wreck found in Atlantic is storied cutter Bear

The Washington Post

Mark Pratt, Reporter/Editor
The Associated Press

In this July 1908 photograph provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear sits at anchor while on Bering Sea Patrol off Alaska. The wreckage of the storied vessel, that served in two World Wars and patrolled frigid Arctic waters for decades, has been found, the Coast Guard said Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office via AP) (Uncredited/U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)

BOSTON — The wreck of a storied military ship that served in two World Wars, performed patrols in waters off Alaska for decades, and at one point was captained by the first Black man to command a U.S. government vessel has been found, the Coast Guard said Thursday.

A wreck thought to be the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, which sank in 1963 about 260 miles east of Boston as it was being towed to Philadelphia, where it was going to be converted into a floating restaurant, was located in 2019.

But it was only in August that a team of experts looking at the evidence came to the conclusion that they are “reasonably certain” that the wreck is indeed the Bear, officials of the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said at a waterfront news conference in Boston.

“At the time of the loss of Bear, it was already recognized as a historic ship,” said Joe Hoyt, of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

…Thursday’s announcement coincided with the arrival in Boston of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, named after the Bear’s captain from 1886 until 1895, Michael “Hell Roaring Mike” Healy.

The Healy, an icebreaker commissioned in 1999, recently completed a transit of the Arctic Northwest Passage.

Healy, born in 1839, was the son of a Georgia plantation owner and a slave. Healy’s father sent him to Massachusetts to escape enslavement, [William] Thiesen said.

He likened the Healy — commissioned by Abraham Lincoln a month before the president’s assassination — to an Old West sheriff, whose jurisdiction was an area the size of the lower 48 states.

“While he never, during his lifetime, self-identified as African American, perhaps to avoid the prejudice he would likely have encountered in his personal life and career, he was in reality the first person of African American descent to command a ship of the U.S. Government,” a NOAA news release said…

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Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy: From American Slave to Arctic Hero

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2017-01-27 15:18Z by Steven

Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy: From American Slave to Arctic Hero

University Press of Florida
352 pages
6.125 x 9.25
Hardcover ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-3368-6
Paper ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-5485-8

Dennis L. Noble, Senior Chief Petty Officer (Retired)
United States Coast Guard

Truman R. Strobridge

Foreword by James C. Bradford and Gene Allen Smith, Series Editors

One of the Coast Guard’s great heroes and the secret he kept hidden

In the late 1880s, many lives in northern and western maritime Alaska rested in the capable hands of Michael A. Healy (1839-1904), through his service to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Healy arrested lawbreakers, put down mutinies aboard merchant ships, fought the smuggling of illegal liquor and firearms, rescued shipwrecked sailors from a harsh and unforgiving environment, brought medical aid to isolated villages, prevented the wholesale slaughter of marine wildlife, and explored unknown waters and lands.

Captain Healy’s dramatic feats in the far north were so widely reported that a New York newspaper once declared him the “most famous man in America.” But Healy hid a secret that contributed to his legacy as a lonely, tragic figure.

In 1896, Healy was brought to trial on charges ranging from conduct unbecoming an officer to endangerment of his vessel for reason of intoxication. As punishment, he was put ashore on half pay with no command and dropped to the bottom of the Captain’s list. Eventually, he again rose to his former high position in the service by the time of his death in 1904. Sixty-seven years later, in 1971, the U.S. Coast Guard learned that Healy was born a slave in Georgia who ran away to sea at age fifteen and spent the rest of his life passing for white.

This is the rare biography that encompasses both sea adventure and the height of human achievement against all odds.

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Hell-Roaring Mike

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-12-22 23:53Z by Steven

Hiding in Plain Sight: Hell-Roaring Mike

We’re History

James M. O’Toole, Clough Professor of History
Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts

Captain Healy aboard the Revenue Cutter Bear, with his pet parrot, c.1895. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard icebreaker Healy is back in its home port of Seattle after four months at sea. On September 5, 2015, it had become the first United States vessel ever to reach the North Pole unaccompanied. In fact, it was only the fourth American ship ever to make it all the way to 90 degrees north latitude. En route, the 16,000-ton monster with a crew of nearly ninety (together with teams of scientists) sometimes had to plow through more than four feet of ice—it was built to be able to make it through ten—a procedure done by running up onto the ice and allowing its own weight to open the path. With support from the National Science Foundation and working with Geotraces, an international study of the oceans, the ship collected ice, water, and air samples and analyzed them in onboard laboratories, measuring the effects of the warming climate. In completing its mission, the ship did honor to its namesake and predecessor in Arctic waters, Captain Michael Healy (1839-1904) of what was then called the Revenue Cutter Service. His picturesque public career would be remarkable in itself. But his personal story adds to its drama and significance, because he was the Coast Guard’s first African American captain…

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