By Joseph Carl DeCaro,
The Stratford Bard
February 21, 2002
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 populations.
"The hospital ship Hope can't go into the ice," said Koether.
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," said Koether.
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 needed.
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.
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