Friday, July 14, 2017

1957 Coast Guard cutters around the continent North West Passage

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage.
The crews of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador, charted, recorded water depths and installed aids to navigation for future shipping lanes from May to September of 1957.
All four crews became the first deep-draft ships to sail through the Northwest Passage, which are several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.

This 1958 film documents the first successful transit through the Northwest Passage by the Coast Guard cutters Bramble, USCGC Spar (WLB-403) and USCGC Storis (WMEC-38).
These vessels were selected to attempt a forced passage along the northern shore of Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
During the 1950's anti-communism had been on the rise.
By 1952, then-candidate and former WWII-hero Dwight Eisenhower ran a campaign for Presidency against "Communism, Korea and Corruption".
When he won the Presidency in 1954 he signed a bill into law creating the Distance Early Warning (DEW) line.
Comprising of 58 radar sites, approximately 100 miles apart across the northern slope of Alaska, Canada a Greenland these stations would provide the US early warning from Russian aerial attacks coming over the North Pole.
Because a deep-water draft channel had never before been found across the Northwest Passage to resupply DEW Line stations, the STORIS along with Cutters BRAMBLE and SPAR were tasked with finding one.
Magnetic fluxations and over 450 years of failed efforts had prevented this to have been accomplished up this that point in time.
On July 1, 1957 the Cutters STORIS, BRAMBLE and SPAR departed Seattle in order to conquer the Northwest Passage.

Preparations for the difficult voyage (as seen in the film) included fitting Bramble with a stainless steel propeller and strengthening her bow to withstand tremendous pressures created by the Arctic ice pack.
Bramble departed for this historic adventure from Miami on 24 May 1957 en route Seattle, Washington via the Panama Canal.
On 1 July 1957 the task force departed Seattle for the Atlantic via the Bering Straits and Arctic Ocean.
The ships traveled through 4,500 nautical miles (8,330 km) of semi-charted water in 64 days to recross the Arctic Circle into the Atlantic.
The success of the mission distinguished the three cutters as the first American surface ships to circumnavigate the North American continent.
On 2 December 1957 Bramble returned to Miami.

The Northwest Passage is actually several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.
According to Robert K. Headland of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England, seven different routes connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by way of these icy seas.
The pursuit of the passage had killed scores of sailors and destroyed some of the most famous vessels in the history of exploration.

USCGC Bramble (WLB-392) is one of the 39 original 180-foot (55 m) seagoing buoy tenders built between 1942-1944 for the United States Coast Guard.
Bramble is currently a museum ship, part of Port Huron Museum, located in Port Huron, Michigan.
She will be closed to the public effective August 14, 2011, owing to a lack of funds.
The Port Huron Museum hopes to sell the Bramble for $300,000.

The ship was built by the Zenith Dredge Company in Duluth, Minnesota. Bramble's preliminary design was completed by the United States Lighthouse Service and the final design was produced by Marine Iron and Shipbuilding Corporation in Duluth.
On 2 August 1943 the keel was laid, she was launched on 23 October 1943 and commissioned on 22 April 1944.
The original cost for the hull and machinery was $925,464.

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