The date of the big breakout is not yet set. The hideout will be
about 24 miles away from Suisun Bay, but the exact location on San
Francisco's sprawling industrial waterfront won't be known until
after Independence Day.
But when it happens, the USS/USCG Glacier's getaway will be a very
public event. It's hard to hide a red and white, 8915 ton vessel
with a large bow designed to crash through six-foot-thick ice sheets.
After decades chained to fellow inmates, the Glacier will soon
break away from the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleets neat lines of mothballed
vessels and be towed through Carquinez Strait to a new home at a
Port of San Francisco pier.
That's when the most serious work will begin on the 1950s vintage
ice-breaker. The historic vessel is being restored by volunteers
for eventual use as a floating marine classroom and lab.
It will reach Bridgeport, Conn. via the North Pole once cash is
raised to repair its ten Fairbanks/Morse Diesel engines. The engines
have 21,000 horsepower between them. In its prime, the vessel had
a maximum speed of 17 knots.
The voyage to San Francisco will be somewhat less dramatic than
the Glacier's historic forays to both poles, especially its first,
during "Operation Deep Freeze." It served as flagship
for famous polar explorer Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd during that 1955-56 mission. It served
for 32 years in the Navy and then the Coast Guard, making its last
trip to a pole in 1985. It was decommissioned by 1987.
This time it will move by tug."We've got tug boats, we've
got pilots, we've got captains," said Bernard Koether, chairman
of the non-profit Glacier Society.
Koether just returned back east from two weeks in Benicia overseeing
work crews aboard the vessel and making arrangements in San Francisco
for its future berthing.
The Connecticut-based group has seen and overcome many obstacles
this past five years. A recent hitch in negotiations with the federal
government that stalled an early-July move is being seen as a mere
Negotiations are ongoing with the Port of San Francisco, and Koether
isn't even bothered by a growing municipal scandal that may shake
up the SF port's management.
It's future home may be shaky, but things aboard the vessel are
The Glacier now has three generators, Koether said. Its ventilation
system is functioning and the anchor chain and windlass are up and
running. Work has begun on signal flags and other necessities.
Part of Koether's confidence about this venture stems from new
structural analysis and inspections that show the ship's interior
skeleton is in great shape.
Koether credits Joe Arvizu of Edge Testing and Inspection with
performing some hard work during recent audio gauging of the old
hull's structural integrity.
The firm, which moved to the Benicia Industrial Park from Vacaville
last month, has performed nondestructive testing in the marine,
refinery and power plant industries for about a decade. Arvisu said
he found the structural integrity of places he and his two sons
inspected to be "pretty consistent."
Arvisu used an ultrasound system to check the ship's hull. His
business also uses portable radiography in some cases. While radiography
provides a photo of an area, he said, using ultrasound allows him
to calculate things like hull thickness and provide three-dimensional
information that a photo can't provide.
News of the hull's strength "adds confidence to our business
plan. Now it's a slam dunk," Koether said confidently. Then,
he added, "We just need time, money and volunteers."
The next planned work parties will happen between July 7-18. Call
the Glacier Society for information about being on board for one
day, several days or the entire time. Contact Vickie Ipacs at email@example.com
or (866) ICE PLAY, ext. 3.
History of the Glacier:
Glacier was designed and built for the US Navy at Ingalls Shipbuilding
Company in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Construction began in August
1953 and Glacier was completed and commissioned in May 1955. Her
first homeport was Boston, Massachusetts. She was the fourth ship
with the name Glacier and the first and only icebreaker.
On her maiden voyage, Glacier sailed south to participate in the
first Operation Deepfreeze (1955-1956) in preparation for the International
Geophysical Year. Glacier had the honor of being flagship for the
noted polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd during that first trip to
In 1966, national responsibility for Icebreaker Operations was
transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard. Glacier shifted services
and homeports. From Long Beach, California, she continued to service
both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Since that first trip, Glacier has made over two dozen Antarctic
trips and more than a dozen Arctic trips in support of scientific
The Glacier was responsible for major explorations in the Bellingshausen
Sea area (1959-60), an expedition during which the current Chairman
of the Glacier Society, Mr. Bernard G. Koether, II, undertook the
During all these expeditions Glacier hosted many scientists who
upon pioneering work in their fields:
- Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa in 1958 discovered
what we now call "The Van Allen Belt." This is a radiation
belt of high-energy particles, mainly protons and electrons, held
captive by the magnetic influence of the earth.
- Dr. William Littlewood conducted pioneering work in oceanography
(measuring different ocean density layers) for the National Science
Foundation during Operation Deep Freeze III.
- Scientists from the US Geological Survey made probes into the
earth's mantle in order to better understand the emerging theory
of plate tectonics. It s last of many meritorious unit commendations
came in 1985. It was decommissioned in 1987.
- Courtesy of the Glacier Society
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