This day in history, August 22, 1994, The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea and the CCCS Louis S. Ste Laurent became the first North American surface vessel to reach the North Pole.
An HH-65A from Aviation Training Center Mobile, detached to the Polar Sea, became the first U.S., as well as Coast Guard helicopter to reach the pole as well.
These vessels have to break through hundreds of miles of ice shelf with forward propelling gear. They vessels allow for open-water icebreaking and have reinforced hulls, special icebreaking bows, and a system that allows rapid shifting of ballast to increase the effectiveness of their icebreaking.
The U.S. Coast Guard “service’s history of ice operations reveals a broad spectrum of tasks – ranging from the support of pure science to the eminently practical job of life saving on frozen waters. Furthermore, the nature of each of these functions is such that none can be considered ‘optional’: all are vital – whether it be in the arena of national defense, maritime safety, international trade, or the global economy,” the U.S. Coast Guard military history reads.
If it weren’t for these icebreakers it would have been very difficult to reach parts of Alaska, considering a portion of it is inside the Arctic Circle.