Arctic Diving: Coast Guard and Navy resume polar plunge after 11 years

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Harris, a member of a joint Coast Guard-Navy dive team deployed on the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, holds a Coast Guard ensign during a cold water ice dive off a Healy small boat in the Arctic, July 29, 2017. The joint dive team successfully completed the first shipboard Coast Guard dive operations in the Arctic in eleven years. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Bradbury

U.S. Coast Guardsmen and U.S. Navy sailors have resumed shipboard dive operations in the Arctic for the first time since two Coast Guard divers perished in a subsurface accident almost 11 years ago.

Following the ice dive casualty that killed Lt. Jessica Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Duque on August 17, 2006, the Coast Guard conducted a comprehensive dive program review and suspended the Arctic dive until this year.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, home ported in Seattle, and a joint dive team held a memorial to honor the fallen divers during the cutter's current Arctic patrol.

“There is no prospect more sobering than the death of a crew-member,” said Capt. Greg Tlapa, commanding officer of the Healy. “We honor the memory of our shipmates, Lt. Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Duque, and will never forget their sacrifices. It gives our crew great pride to re-establish dive capabilities to Healy and meet the subsurface needs and challenges our service will face in the coming years in the Arctic.”

Divers are a primary resource for the Coast Guard when performing a full spectrum of Coast Guard missions, including subsurface maintenance, assistance to marine casualty investigations and supporting search and rescue operations.

The Coast Guard's leadership role in providing a continued Arctic presence is essential to national security, U.S. sovereign interests and scientific research.

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