US Coast Guard cutter sets sail to recreate historic Northwest Passage voyage

US Coast Guard photo of cutter Maple

Marking the 60th anniversary of a joint U.S. and Canadian trip to chart the Northwestern Passage, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple set sail from Alaska to recreate the passage.

The 225-foot seagoing buoy tender homeported in Sitka, Alaska, departed Wednesday and is expected to conclude its historic voyage in Baltimore, Maryland, during late August.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage. The crews of 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.

The crew of the cutter Maple will make a brief logistics stop in Nome, Alaska, to embark an ice navigator on its way to support marine science and scientific research near the Arctic Circle. The cutter will serve as a ship of opportunity to conduct scientific research in support of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The Maple crew will deploy three sonographic buoys that are used to record acoustic sounds of marine mammals. A principal investigator with the University of San Diego embarked aboard the cutter will analyze the data retrieved from the buoys.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier will rendezvous with the Maple later this month to provide icebreaking services as the Maple makes it way toward Victoria Strait, Canada. The Maple has a reinforced hull that provides it with limited ice breaking capabilities similar to Coast Guard 225-foot cutters operating on the Great Lakes.

“We’re very excited to make this voyage through the Northwest Passage and to assist in the Scripps Institute research,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Armstrong, commanding officer of the Maple. “In planning this, we have worked very closely with our Canadian counterparts and we look forward to continuing that cooperation in the Arctic.”

All scientific research, icebreaking and marine science activities that occur during the voyage will be conducted in accordance with the 1988 Canada-US Agreement on Arctic Cooperation.

After USCGC Maple arrives in Baltimore, Maryland, it 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.

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