In August and September 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Natural Resources Canada, Geological Survey of Canada, conducted bathymetric and geophysical surveys in the Beaufort Sea and eastern Arctic Ocean aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The principal objective of this mission to the high Arctic was to acquire data in support of a delineation of the outer limits of the U.S. and Canadian Extended Continental Shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in accordance with the provisions of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Healy was accompanied by the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent. The scientific parties on board the two vessels consisted principally of staff from the U.S. Geological Survey (Healy), and the Geological Survey of Canada and the Canadian Hydrographic Service (Louis). The crew also included marine-mammal observers, Native-community observers, ice observers, and biologists conducting research of opportunity in the Arctic Ocean.
Despite interruptions necessitated by three medical emergencies, the joint survey proved largely successful. The Healy collected 7,201 trackline-kilometers of swath (multibeam) bathymetry (47,663 square kilometers) and CHIRP subbottom data, with accompanying marine gravity measurements, and expendable bathythermograph data. The Louis acquired 3,673 trackline-kilometers of multichannel seismic (airgun) deep-penetration reflection data along 25 continuous profiles, as well as 34 sonobuoy refraction stations and 9,500 trackline-kilometers of single-beam bathymetry. The coordinated efforts of the two vessels resulted in seismic-reflection-profile data that were of much higher quality and continuity than if the data had been acquired with a single vessel alone. The equipment-failure rate of the seismic equipment aboard the Louis was greatly reduced when the Healy led as the ice breaker. When ice conditions proved too severe to deploy the seismic system, the Louis led the Healy, resulting in much improved quality of the swath bathymetric and CHIRP subbottom data in comparison with data collected either by the Healy in the lead or the Healy working alone.
During periods when the Healy was operating alone (principally when the Louis was diverted for emergency medical evacuations or ship repairs), the Healy was able to deploy a piston-core-sampler (10 meters maximum potential recovery depending on configuration). The coring operations resulted in recovery of cores at five locations ranging from 2.4 to 5.7 meters in length from water depths ranging from 1,157 to 3,700 meters. One of these cores sited on the Alaskan margin recovered the first reported occurrence of methane hydrate from the Arctic Ocean.
Ancillary science objectives, including ice observations and deployment of ice-monitoring buoys and water-column sampling to measure acidification of Arctic waters were successfully conducted. The water-column sampling included using 10 full-ocean-depth, water-sampling casts with accompanying conductivity-temperature-depth measurements.
Except for the data deemed proprietary, data from the cruise have been archived and are available for download at the National Geophysical Data Center and at cooperating organizations.
Outreach staff and guest teachers aboard the two vessels provided near-real-time connection between the research activities and the public through online blogs, web pages, and other media.