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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