Coast Guard Icebreakers:

Historic Photo Gallery


The following is a historic photo gallery of Coast Guard icebreakers, showing some of the differing types of vessels that have seen service with the Coast Guard icebreaking fleet.  We hope that you will enjoy this gallery of images of some of the largest ships that have ever served with the Coast Guard.

The following are official U.S. Coast Guard photographs.

Photographs
[Click on the image to see in full-size]
Original photo caption; description (if any):
A photo of the Revenue Cutter Bear. Original photo caption reads:

"USRC Bear and SS Corwin; Roadstead, Nome, Alaska."  Date unknown; Lomex Bros. photograph, No. 999.

Probably the Coast Guard's most famous cutter, the Bear was originally built by Alexander Stephen & Son in Scotland for sailing in northern waters as a whaler and sealer.  Although she was not a true icebreaker, her hull was reinforced for operations in light ice and is therefore a forebear of today's icebreakers.  She was purchased by the U.S. Navy for the Greely Arctic rescue mission in 1884 and was turned over to the Revenue Cutter Service in 1885.  Here she served valiantly in Alaskan waters for over 40 years under the command of many famous captains, including the indomitable Michael Healy.  She was taken back into naval service during World War II and served on the Greenland Patrol.  Ultimately she sank while under tow in 1963.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Leonid Krassin.  

No caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

The Soviets offered the use of their icebreaker Krassin to the U.S. in 1941 and the Coast Guard surveyed her for use in Greenland waters.  She was originally constructed by Vickers and entered service with the Russians in 1917.  Although the Soviets revoked their offer in November, 1941, and she therefore never entered U.S. service, the Coast Guard did obtain information on her design.  That information was utilized in the design and construction of the Wind Class icebreakers.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Northland.

No caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Although not a true icebreaker, the Northland, launched in 1927, was designed to replace the Bear and operate in Alaskan waters and was therefore a forerunner of today's icebreakers.  Her hull, extensively welded instead of riveted--a novel feature in 1926, was designed to withstand 100 psi, permitting operations in light ice conditions.  She was rigged with two masts for auxiliary power in the event of damage to her single propeller.  The masts were removed in 1936.  G.U. Stewart collection.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Northland; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Greenland, circa 1944.  Compare with the photo above.  She had quite an active career with the Coast Guard rescuing stranded Army Air Force crewmen in Greenland and attacking German weather stations and supply trawlers.  She was decommissioned in 1946 and sold to the Israeli "underground."  After conversion work she was renamed The Jewish State and ran the British blockade of Palestine transporting Jewish immigrants.  After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Northland, now renamed Matzpen, became the first warship of the new Israeli Navy.  She saw action against Egyptian forces that attacked Israel by sea; shelled Tira and Tyre and then served as a training ship, then a tender to the Israeli motor torpedo boat fleet, and finished her career as an accommodations ship for the port command at Haifa.  She was decommissioned from the Israeli Navy in February, 1962 and sold for scrap.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Eastwind; no caption; Photo No. 032345-7; photo by Kreitz, #160.

Eastwind in Greenland waters, 23 March 1945.  The "Winds" were the first class of true icebreakers built by the U.S.  They were heavily armed and carried a Grumman J2F amphibian.  Gibbs & Cox of New York provided the designs with input from the Coast Guard's Naval Engineering Division.  The final design was heavily influenced by studies conducted by then LCDR Edward Thiele of foreign icebreakers, namely the Swedish Ymer and the Soviet Krassin.

Eastwind and Southwind were the only two Wind Class icebreakers to see active service during the war.  Both were involved with the capture of the German trawler Extersteine in Greenland.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"EASTWIND (WAGB-279); Antarctic Operation Deep Freeze I (1955-56); PENGUIN DRILL TEAM with a stalwart leader at the head troops past the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker EASTWIND in a show of strength against the intruder to their domain at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica."

Photo No. 01-01-56 (01); 1 January 1956; photo by PH1 Walter Zaborney.

As shown here Eastwind participated in the first Deep Freeze cruise.  These were annual voyages to resupply U.S. bases in Antarctica.  She was also active in cruises through the arctic, resupplied early-warning bases there as well as in Greenland, became the first cutter to circumnavigate the globe during a 1960-1961 operation, assisted vessels in distress or freed those trapped by ice, circumnavigated the globe again during Operation Deep Freeze '67, and broke ice on the Great Lakes.  She survived a deadly collision with the tanker Gulfstream in 1949 although 13 crewmen perished.  She was decommissioned and sold in 1972.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"OPERATION DEEP FREEZE -- 1963.  The 269-ft., 6,515 ton U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker EASTWIND rips open a channel through frozen McMurdo Sound for cargo ships carrying personnel, equipment, and supplies for scientific stations in the [sic] Antarctica.  In some areas the ice is 10 to 20 feet thick."  

Photo No. 6082; date/photographer unknown.

The Eastwind became the first cutter to ever circumnavigate the globe.  She departed Boston on 25 October 1960, transited the Panama Canal, crossed the Pacific Ocean, visited New Zealand and then participated in Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica.  She sailed home via the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and arrived back at Boston in May, 1961.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"OPERATION DEEP FREEZE 1969: A U.S. Coast Guard trio of icebreakers crushes a path through heavily ice-paved McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic for cargo ships to follow to the main base at Hut Point, Ross Island.  There the cargo is divided for dissemination to other scientific stations.  Leading is the heavier 310-ft. USCGC GLACIER (WAGB-4) followed by the two 269-ft. icebreakers USCGC BURTON ISLAND (WAGB-283 and the USCGC SOUTHWIND (WAGB-280).  The latter is based at Baltimore, Md., while the first two operate out of Long Beach, Cal.  All three are veterans of Deep Freeze operations.  After this icebreaking mission, however, the GLACIER departs alone to make the International Weddell Sea Oceanographic Expedition. EAS/bjh." 

Photo No. GAPI-01-00-69; 1969; photographer unknown. 

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Glacier.  

No caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

The Glacier was originally a US Navy icebreaker but was transferred and commissioned into the Coast Guard on 30 June 1966 after the Navy decided to give the Coast Guard total responsibility for icebreaker operations.  In fact, the Navy transferred all of their remaining icebreakers to the nation's oldest continuous sea-going service and since that time the Coast Guard has been the sole U.S. military service conducting polar icebreaking cruises. 

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Glacier; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Glacier was originally commissioned in 1955 in the US Navy but was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1966.  She was decommissioned in 1987.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Glacier; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.  

In the mid 1970's the Coast Guard began painting all of its polar icebreakers' hulls red to make them easier for helicopter pilots to spot in the ice.  The Mackinaw was exempted from the change.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"Commissioning of the Southwind."

No photo number; 15 July 1944; photographer unknown.  U.S. Coast Guard Photo; 11th Naval District Office, Photographic Section.

After seeing service on the Greenland Patrol, and assisting the Eastwind in capturing the German trawler Externsteine, Southwind was transferred to the Soviet Union on 23 March 1945.  Our Soviet allies renamed her Admiral Mararov ("The father of the modern icebreaker," according to the Soviets).  She served in the Soviet Navy until 1950 when she was returned to the US Navy.  The Navy renamed her Atka, and she once again changed hands in 1966 when the Navy transferred all remaining Navy icebreakers to the Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard christened her Southwind on 18 January 1967.  She remained in service until 1976, when she was decommissioned and sold.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: There was a good crisp chill in the air as the various Tidewater news media representatives boarded a Coast Guard 40 footer at Base Berkley enroute to the Coast Guard Cutter SOUTHWIND.  Upon our approach to the great white cutter cameras began to click and wind, and the sight of her discolored bow impressed you with the idea that she had left her mark in the last 27,000 mile journey.  One of them was at Santa's very door step and if he really lives at the North Pole only the crew of the SOUTHWIND knows and they aren't telling.  What she is telling is that she penetrated closer to the North Pole than 'any United States icebreaker.'"

No photo number; December 1970; photographer unknown.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Burton Island; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.  11th Coast Guard District (dpi) photo.

The Burton Island was originally a US Navy icebreaker but she was transferred to the Coast Guard on 15 December 1966.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Burton Island; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Burton Island was originally commissioned into the US Navy in 1946 and was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1966.  She remained in service until 1978.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Edisto; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

The Edisto was originally a US Navy icebreaker but was transferred to the Coast Guard and commissioned into service on 20 October 1965.  She was decommissioned in 1974.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"$10 MILLION COAST GUARD MACKINAW WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL ICEBREAKER: Built to smash a channel through ice seven feet thick, the new Coast Guard icebreaker MACKINAW has started her rugged duty on the Great Lakes.  Costing $10,000,000, the MACKINAW is conceded to be the most powerful icebreaker in the world and is expected to open traffic on the Great Lakes three to four weeks earlier in the spring and to keep the channels clear later in the fall.  Two hundred and ninety feet long, she cuts a channel 70 feet wide, adequate to service the largest lakes ore carriers." 

Photo No. 3778; photo released 10 January 1945; photographer unknown.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"'BIG MAC' USCGC ICEBREAKER MACKINAW (WAGB-83): 'Big Mac' as sometimes the U.S. Coast Guard [icebreaker] is called, is shown here beginning early March [1957] icebreaking operations in the Straits of Mackinac, heralding the spring opening of Great Lakes shipping.  An HO4S-2G helicopter (From Coast Guard Air Station, Traverse City, Michigan) perched on the stern makes ice surveys for the icebreaker during its 6 to 8 weeks of icebreaking operations.  The Coast Guard Cutter MACKINAW was specially designed and built for icebreaking on the Great Lakes.  Normally lake ice thaws at the end of April, but the MACKINAW has opened Great Lakes shipping lanes as early as the third week in March, thus facilitating the early shipping of millions of tons of iron ore and other materials.  Usually at the first week in March the MACKINAW heads first for the strategic area of the Straits of Mackinac to begin ice operations and as conditions permit works up though the Soo Locks, to Whitefish Bay and areas of the St. Mary's River, then to the head of Lake Superior.  Later the icebreaker works in the lower Lakes' areas.  

The MACKINAW is literally land-locked, her size not permitting her to leave the Great Lakes.  Built of steel, 'Big Mac's' length is 290 ft., beam 74 ft., draft 19 ft., displacement 5,252 tons, maximum speed 16 knots.  A diesel electric power plant delivers 10,000 h.p. through twin screws in the stern and one in the bow.  The bow propeller is employed to churn the water beneath the ice, changing its static buoyancy.  The resulting combined forward and downward motion when the MACKINAW drives its great bow onto the ice makes the icebreaker capable of breaking through 4 feet of solid sheet 'blue' ice.  The MACKINAW has also plowed through 37 ft. of 'windrow' (broken) ice.  It is capable of cutting a channel 70 ft. wide to accommodate the largest of the Great Lakes ore carriers.  

During navigation season, the MACKINAW is used to handle the heaviest buoys on the lakes with the aid of its two 12-ton cranes, to carry fuel and supplies to light stations, to serve as a training ship, and to assist vessels in distress when necessary.  

Built by the Toledo Shipbuilding Co., Ohio, the MACKINAW cost 10 million dollars when completed.  The MACKINAW's keel was laid on March 20, 1943, and the icebreaker was commissioned on December 20, 1944.  Its permanent homeport is Cheboygan, Michigan."  

Photo No. 5772; October 1957; photographer unknown.

WAGB-83 remained in service until she was decommissioned on 10 June 2006.  She is now a museum ship in Mackinaw City, Michigan.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Mackinaw; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

The design of the Mackinaw was based on the Wind Class but was wider and longer, modifications that decreased her draft, a necessary precondition for service on the Great Lakes.  Additionally, her hull was made of mild steel.  She was to have been named Manitowoc but the Navy had already assigned that name to a frigate.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Northwind; no caption; Photo No. Northwind #7; date/photographer unknown.

Note the HNS-1 Hoverfly on her flight deck.  She was the second Wind Class icebreaker named Northwind.  The first was transferred to the Soviet Union before WAGB-282 was launched.  282 was commissioned in the Coast Guard as the Northwind on 28 July 1945 and stayed in service until she was decommissioned in 1989.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Northwind; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.
A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"CGC STATEN ISLAND OPERATES IN ROSS SEA: The USCGC STATEN ISLAND, a Coast Guard icebreaker stationed in Seattle, Washington, breaks the eight-foot pack ice near McMurdo Station.  The vessel is deployed in Operation DEEP FREEZE '67 and is operating in the Ross Sea area of the Antarctic.  The STATEN ISLAND is commanded by Captain Robert T. Norrix."

Photo No. 278-010867-01; 28 December 1966; photo by Ken Lane.

The Staten Island was originally named Northwind and was transferred to the Soviet Union on 26 February 1944.  The Soviets named her Severni Veter and later Admiral Makarov .  She was returned to US control and commissioned as a U.S. Navy icebreaker in 1951 and was renamed Northwind.  To avoid confusion with her Coast Guard "sister," WAGB-282, the Navy renamed her Staten Island on 15 April 1952.  

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Staten Island; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Staten Island was transferred to the Coast Guard and commissioned in the nation's oldest sea service on 1 February 1965 after the Navy decided to cede all icebreaking vessels and all icebreaking responsibilities to the Coast Guard in 1965-1966.   She was decommissioned in 1974 and sold the next year.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"CUTTER WESTWIND RETURNS TO NYC FROM ARCTIC CRUISE: The Cutter WESTWIND is shown here maneuvering in New York Harbor prior to mooring at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard on September 30 upon her return after 121 days in the Arctic."

Photo No. 89-54 (8 of 9); 29 September 1954; M.T.A.

The Westwind was transferred to the Soviet Union in 1945 and they renamed her Severni Pulius.  She sailed under the Communist flag for six years until the Soviets returned her to the U.S. in 1951.  After being refurbished, the Coast Guard recommissioned her on 22 September 1952 as Westwind once again.  She was decommissioned in 1988.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. Original photo caption reads:

"CUTTER WESTWIND RETURNS FROM ARCTIC: The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Westwind (WAGB-281), an icebreaker, approaches the Coast Guard LORAN Station at Cape Atholl, Greenland.  The station is located some 20 miles from Thule Air Force Base and 800 miles from the North Pole.  The Westwind arrived in the area in July of this year.  Scenic fjords and rugged mountains loom in the background."

Photo No. 396-64 (2 of 4); Neg. #081864-23; 18 August 1964; photographer unknown.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Westwind; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Note her new stack, added during an extensive renovation conducted in 1974-1975.  The renovations included the strengthening of her bow and stern areas, replacement of her engines, widening her propeller shaft diameter from 19 to 22 inches, and a new "Icebreaker Red" paint scheme.  She stayed in service for another thirteen years and was formally decommissioned in 1988.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Polar Sea; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

The Polar Class icebreakers were designed to replace the Coast Guard's aging icebreaker fleet but due to budget constraints only two were authorized: WAGB-10 (Polar Star) and WAGB-11 (Polar Sea).  They were both built by the Lockheed Shipbuilding Company of Seattle and both entered service in 1976.  The were designed to break 6.5 feet of ice at 3 knots and could reach a maximum speed in open water of 18 knots.  They were also built with newly designed controllable-pitch propellers that caused some initial problems after they first entered service.  However, these "teething problems" were overcome and in conjunction with USCGC Healy, the Polar Class continue to carry out successfully the Coast Guard's icebreaking missions on the earth's polar regions.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Polar Sea; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.
A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Polar Star; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.
A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker. USCGC Polar Star; no caption/photo number; date/photographer unknown.

Photo was taken sometime during her initial arctic ice trials, circa May-June 1976 off the western coast of Alaska.  Photo was taken by off the west coast of Alaska by a Headquarter's Public Affairs photographer.  Information provided by Edward Wilson, a plank-owner of Polar Star.  He also noted: "As to the red 'SAR Stripe' - that was the original color scheme when the icebreaker hulls were painted red.  The stripe was offset by additional leading and trailing white stripes.  The stripe colors were changed to their present scheme in 1977 or so."
A photo of the Polar Star Original photo caption reads:

"Arctic West, Arctic (June 10 [1996])--Coast Guard Cutter Polar [Sea] (WAGB 11). Since the late 1970s, these 400-foot mammoths of the Coast Guard fleet, based in Seattle, Wash., have been traveling north and south for their primary mission of scientific and logistical support in both Polar Regions. Polar class icebreakers have a variety of missions while operating in polar regions. During Antarctic deployments, their primary missions include breaking a channel through the sea ice to resupply the McMurdo Research Station in the Ross Sea. Resupply ships using the channel to bring food, fuel, and other goods to make it through another winter. In addition, to these duties, Polar [Sea] also serves as a scientific research platform with five laboratories and accommodations for up to 20 scientists. The "J"-shaped cranes and work areas near the stern and port side of ship give scientists the capability to do at-sea studies in the fields of geology, vulcanology, oceanography, sea-ice physics and other disciplines."

Photo No. 98481

Photo by PA3 Andy Devilbiss, USCG.

A photo of a Coast Guard icebreaker.

Original photo caption reads:

"
USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) was constructed by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her keel was laid on September 16, 1996. A spectacular launch followed on November 15, 1997. Delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard and placed "In Commission, Special" on November 10, 1999, Healy joined the icebreakers Polar Star (WAGB 10) and Polar Sea (WAGB 11) in their homeport of Seattle, Washington. The ship departed New Orleans on January 26th, 2000, arrived in Seattle on August 9th, 2000 and was placed "In Commission, Active" on August 21st, 2000."

The Healy is the largest and heaviest cutter ever designed and built for the Coast Guard.  She can break 4.5 feet of ice at 3 knots and 7.8 feet of ice by backing and ramming.

A photo of the icebreaker Healy

Original photo caption reads:

 "CGC HEALY (FOR RELEASE)

Strait of Belle Isle (Apr. 5 [2000])--The Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) enters the ice for the first time just east of Strait of Belle Isle. Our newest WAGB, the Polar Icebreaker/Research Vessel is built by Avondale Industries in New Orleans. USCGC HEALY is named in commemoration of Captain Michael A. Healy, U. S. Revenue Marine. Captain Healy was most notable as the foremost seaman and navigator of his time in the Bering Sea and Alaskan Arctic regions while Commanding Officer of the U. S. Revenue Cutter BEAR from 1886 to 1895."

Photo No. 9584

Photographer not listed.

A photo of the icebreaker Healy

Original photo caption reads:

"COAST GUARD CUTTER HEALY (WAGB 20)(FOR RELEASE)

Labrador Sea, Greenland (May 12 [2000])--The Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) is currently testing its icebreaking capabilities. The test are conducted in a 28ft pressure ridge while sustaining 2.5 knots in 5 1/2 feet of ice."

Photo No. 10841

Photographer not listed.  (Coast Guard Digital Photo)

A photo of the icebreaker Healy

Original photo caption reads:

"COAST GUARD CUTTER HEALY (WAGB 20) (FOR RELEASE)

Near Canada (July 25 [2000])--The Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20), in thin ice in the Artic Circle, as observed from one of the ships two helicopters."

Photo No. 95199

Photo by Joe Boyle, PencilNews.com (Coast Guard Digital Photo)

 

The icebreaker Healy at the North Pole

Original photo caption reads:

"CUTTER HEALY GOES TO NORTH POLE (FOR RELEASE)

NORTH POLE (Dec. 20, 2002) -- The Coast Guard Cutter Healy's crew poses in front of the cutter after reaching the North Pole Sept. 6. The Healy became only the second U.S. surface ship to reach the North Pole."

Photo No. 228222

Photographer not listed. (Coast Guard Digital Photo)

 


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Last Modified 7/22/2013