When it comes to "breaking the ice," Bernard Koether
may be overqualified,
That's because Koether - the personable chairman of Stratford's
Food Automation-Service Techniques, Inc. - also chairs the Glacier
Society, a non-profit organization based in nearby Bridgeport.
The Society's first goal is to restore and operate the decommissioned
icebreaker Glacier as a floating museum in port and a U.S. Coast
Guard certified school at sea. AS the latter, the Glacier will conduct
post-graduate learning programs and research environmental issues,
such as global change and ozone layer depletion. The ship will even
explore the oil fields in Northern Alaska so as to reduce America's
dependence on foreign oil.
If that isn't challenging enough, the Glacier hopes to have a medical
facility aboard to administer free health care to indigenous ice-bound
"The hospital ship Hope can't go into the ice," said
As a young ensign, Koether was the Glacier's navigator from 1959-61.
He said navigating through ice was especially challenging since
there were no buoys and the weather was terrible. To make matters
worse, you couldn't use a magnetic compass and there were no visible
stars for months at a time in the seas surrounding the "land
of the midnight sun."
"You had to navigate by dead reckoning and guessing,"
Now as the Society's chairman, Koether hopes to someday port the
Glacier in Bridgeport harbor where it will serve as a major tourist
attraction, housing a museum to honor all who have literally gone
to the ends of the earth.
But first he has to get it there.
Commissioned in 1955, the Glacier was the only sop of her class.
She served as the flagship for famed polar explorer Richard Byrd
during Operation Deepfreeze (1955-6). In addition to her record-breaking
39 Arctic and Antarctic deployments, the Glacier is one of a select
few ship to have served under both the Navy and the USCG. She was
decommissioned in 1987 and is now mothballed in San Francisco's
harbor where the Society's nearly 100 volunteers have labored to
restore the ship to seaworthiness. But more hands on deck are always
Becoming a member of the Society qualifies you to join the Glacier's
crew for her planned return voyage from San Francisco to Boston
- her first homeport - via the North Pole.
Both Congressman Christopher Shays and Senator Joseph Lieberman
support the Society.
To learn more about the Glacier Society, log on to www.glaciersociety.org
or call their Stratford office at (203) 375-6638.
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