Alaska is the final frontier of the US.
Sparsely populated, disconnected from the contiguous United States, subjected to a harsh Arctic climate, and almost unimaginably vast, the mere mention of Alaska conjures images of forbidding wilderness. But it’s in these conditions that the US Coast Guard in Alaska must operate.
Dedicated to patrolling along Alaska’s territorial waters, coming to the aid of damaged vessels, breaking through the routine sea ice blocking ports, and carrying out scientific studies, the Coast Guard has its work cut out for it in Alaska.
The Coast Guard in Alaska operates in some of the most isolated parts of the US. Here, a Coast Guard vessel gets underway in their winter Bering Sea patrol.
In this photo Coast Guard vessel docks at Little Diomede Island in the middle of the Bering Strait. The island has a total population of 135 people.
The Alaskan wilderness also offers thousands of square miles of unspoiled natural beauty. Here, a Coast Guard ship makes port call at Kodiak.
Before taking part in operations, Coast Guard service members must receive substantial training, such as how to rescue individuals who might have fallen through the ice.
Here, a boatswain's mate conducts surface rescue swimmer training in Hogg Bay, in Alaska's Prince William Sound.
Beyond rescue training, Coast Guardsmen must also train on crew-served weapons in the event that they're needed. Here, units conduct night fire exercises with the M-240B machine gun.
The Coast Guard must be ready for any scenario in Alaska's unforgiving conditions. Here, a crew trains at recovering oil in ice-strewn water to prepare for possible oil spills.
Here, members of the Coast Guard Fire and Rescue team battle a simulated fire, to prepare for an actual aircraft fire emergency.
And the training is put to good use. Here, a Coast Guard MH-60 Jay hawk helicopter rescues two crew members of a fishing boat after it ran aground.
The Coast Guard is also responsible for breaking the ice in northern ports for tankers. Here, a Coast Guard cutter breaks the ice near the city of Nome so that a Russian tanker could offload almost 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products to the city.
Cutting through the ice is a multi-team process. Here, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter ascends from Nome after providing ice reconnaissance during the escort of the Russian tanker.
Members of an ice rescue team survey an ice sheet before allowing crew and passengers of a vessel to disembark.
The Coast Guard constantly looks out to improve its capabilities. Here, Arktos Developments displays their amphibious Arctic craft, with heavy tank-style treads that can move through snow.
Keeping equipment in working order is difficult in Alaska, and a life-and-death issue for the Coast Guard. Here, a distress team leader clears ice and snow from solar panels that power a microwave link site for communications in western Alaska.
Another key job of the Coast Guard is to maintain navigation service aids throughout the waters around Alaska. Here, an electronics technician is lowered to a fixed aid on an island in Cold Bay.
The Coast Guard also plays the vital role of fisheries enforcement, making sure vessels don't exceed their legal fishing limit and keep the ecosystem intact.
The Coast Guard also helps to conduct scientific experiments over the Arctic. In this photo, crew members deploy probes that measure sea temperature, salinity, and density in order to gain a better understanding of the Arctic during the summer season.
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