On top of the World: Coast Guard Cutter Alder’s voyage to the Canadian Arctic

>On July 10, 2010, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder departed Duluth, Minn., on a historic trip that took its crew near the top of the world in the Canadian Arctic. Alder’s mission was to participate in Operation Nanook, an international exercise conducted by U.S., Canadian Danish forces. Alder helped showcase the multi-mission capabilities of the Coast Guard and help all the nations involved better respond to emergencies in the Arctic region.

The first week of the trip took Alder from Duluth through Lake Huron, past Detroit, and into Lake Erie. After a short rest in Buffalo, N.Y., to restock supplies, Alder steamed through the Welland Canal, Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence Seaway, headed for the Atlantic Ocean. The transit gave the many new crewmembers onboard a chance to familiarize themselves with the ship and work toward underway qualifications. The ship’s training team stayed busy planning damage control exercises, ensuring that everyone onboard was prepared for any emergency.

The trip was not without fun, however, as the crew was able to enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The scenic harbor was home to many interesting ships and a Scottish atmosphere.

Each department onboard stayed busy, whether it was the engineers making sure the ship had enough potable water, deck department conducting a safe anchoring evolution or the operations department making sure that the navigation gear on the bridge functioned properly.

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.
Alder’s departure from Halifax was a cause for sadness among many crewmembers, but that sadness was short-lived as Alder pulled away from the Nova Scotian shores and set out for Newfoundland and the city of St. John’s. The rocky island welcomed the crew to its sights and sounds, and a brief rest, before Alder headed into the wilds of the Canadian Arctic.

In St. John’s, Alder was joined by more Canadian navy ships – the HMCS Montreal and the HMCS Glace Bay – as well as other U.S. assets. Alder’s crew was able to hit the town for a few days and enjoy some of the local festivities. St. John’s also provided Alder crewmembers with a unique opportunity to learn about the Newfoundland culture, interact with the locals, and introduce themselves to the Canadian navy and U.S. forces with whom Alder would be maneuvering in the coming days.

The departure from Newfoundland brought a few days of formation steaming with international partners and some time for crewmembers to complete their damage control qualifications. It also brought a bit of the inclement weather that the region is known for, especially fog. The exercises gave the bridge and communications teams a chance to hone their skills in low-visibility navigation.

The first stop after St. John’s was the small Inuit village of Hopedale, on the Northern Labrador coast. The bridge team and members of Deck Force safely anchored the cutter offshore and some of the crew were able to go ashore while members of the local population jumped in their boats to head out and take tours of the Alder.

Alder’s crew also made brief visits to the towns of Hopedale, Nain and Iqaluit, where the crew hunted for souvenirs, local art and waited on the tide.

While continuing the voyage north, Alder launched its small boat with Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Thayer, Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Clark and Seaman Andrew Walz aboard to assist a Canadian navy small boat crew that washed onto some rocks near Kiglaplaits, Labrador. Seaman Walz’s superb shooting with a line-throwing gun allowed them to tow the boat off the rocks and get everyone back to the Canadian ship safely.

The rest of the trip north along Baffin Island’s east coast culminated with a stop in Pond Inlet and an overnight visit from Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander, Ninth Coast Guard District. He expressed his admiration for the crew’s professionalism, expertise and his belief in their ability to complete the mission safely.

The crew of the Alder returned to Duluth on Sept. 11, 2010, after more than 50 days away from home, much longer than their normal patrols. Their time away from home was well spent furthering the Coast Guard’s reputation and abilities in the eyes of our international partners and allowing the crew the opportunity to venture where no Coast Guard buoy tender has gone before.

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