Saving the pioneer U.S. icebreaker 'Glacier'

The USS/USCG Glacier made Antarctic history in February 1960 by becoming the first ship to penetrate the Bellinghausen Sea (where Cook wintered in 1898-99) and make landfall on Thurston Island. Four decades later, the Glacier is moored in Suisun Bay, CA at the Maritime Admin-istration's Defense Reserve Fleet Facility. However, the Glacier Society, a Stratford, CT based group, hopes to change her fate. Their goal is to restore the Glacier to an educational resource as a museum and operational oceanographic research community, in port and at sea.

The Glacier was built in the early 50's by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS. When commissioned in 1955, she was the world's largest and most powerful icebreaker, capable of breaking ice up to 20 feet thick. She was 310 feet long with a beam of 74 feet and a full load displacement of 8,915 tons. Her diesel electric power plant generates 21,000 shaft horsepower. The armature shafts of the two deck high DC motors (the largest ever installed on a ship) are actually the propeller shaft with no reduction gears.

From 1955 to 1966, the "Mighty G" as she was known, served the US Navy. In 1966, the US Coast Guard assumed total responsibility of ice breaking missions and all Navy assets were transferred to the Coast Guard. As "Big Red," Glacier flew the colors of the US Coast Guard until 1987. At that time, Glacier was transferred to the inactive reserve fleet to make room for a new generation of icebreakers. During her 32 years of service, Glacier made 29 trips to the Antarctic (15 consecutive) and 10 to the Arctic, sailing 944,050 miles. Her tasking included breaking channels for cargo ships at McMurdo Sound, delivering supplies to outlying bases, conducting scientific explorations to expand knowledge of new areas and conducting rescue missions.

Through the efforts of the Senators Dodd, and Lieberman, and Congressman Shays of CT, the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill included a provision authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to transfer title of the former USS Glacier to the Glacier Society. President Clinton signed the legislation in October 2000.

The USS/USCG Glacier will become a memorial to the history of Polar exploration. Readers interested in learning more about the Glacier Society are urged to visit



Copyright 2005 - The Frederick A. Cook Society