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10 June, 2000

10 June 2000

Diving In!!!

No, not me, but the HEALY’s divers. On my first day aboard the HEALY, I was able to watch the HEALY Dive Team go to work. LTJG Todd Adrian answered many of the questions I had about the presence of divers on a Coast Guard Icebreaker. A dive team on a Coast Guard ship consists of as many as six divers, but no fewer than four. At a minimum there is a dive officer, in this case that is the role of Mr. Adrian, two divers in the water, and a standby diver in case of emergency. The other divers aboard include LTJG Alain Balmaceda and MK3 Eugene Maes who are both members of the HEALY Coast Guard crew. The fourth diver of this team is ENC James Bostick of the U.S. Navy. ENC Bostick is on loan to the HEALY because there was not another certified diver amongst the ships crew at this time.

Divers are only on the Coast Guard’s Polar Icebreakers and some Buoy Tenders. On the “breakers” they are responsible for nearly anything that may be needed done underwater. This may include repairs of the ship below surface, collecting biological samples attached to the bottom of the ice, catching plankton samples with a net, viewing how the ice breaks from underneath the ice as the ship breaks it from above, and anything else someone comes up with for them to do.

How does a person get to be a Coast Guard Diver? In Todd Adrian’s case, he has been diving since he was 12 years old and after he joined the Coast Guard he went to Navy Dive School in Panama City, Florida. After serving as a diver and deck officer on the Polar Star (another USCGC icebreaker) he returned for a six month long course to become a dive officer. Some Coast Guard divers had never dived until they joined and then went through the rigorous Navy dive training. Training is both physically and mentally demanding. Years of high school wrestling camps prepared Todd for the physical aspects and his intellect and determination took care of the rest. According to LTJG Adrian, not everyone who goes into dive school makes it out a diver, and especially not a dive master, but if they make it out they’ ve made it through the best training available.

In case you get the idea that all these divers do is dive and wait around to dive, think again. Diving is a VERY SMALL part of their roles on the ship. The day after I saw LTJG’s Adrian and Balmaceda diving, they were up in the bridge taking this very valuable ship out to sea. I watched as the two of them worked as a deck watch officer team to make sure the ship avoided a trawler traveling through the fog. Alain handled communications with the other ship’s captain while Todd handled the radar, plotting the other ship’s course and speed. Teamwork paid off on the bridge as well as in the water.

The HEALY Dive Team prepars for the frigid waters off the Nuuk dock.

Dive Officer LTJG Todd Adrian assists MK3 Eugene Maes at the edge of the dock.

LTJG Balmaceda and MK3 Eugene Maes check their safety line before heading under the ship.

Part of the original settlement of Nuuk with a statue of Hans Egede on top of the hill. (photo by Todd)

Greenland's flag depicting the midnight sun flies over the old (1930) hospital. (photo by Todd)

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