USCGC Southwind (WAGB 280) Arctic East 1969 & 1970
By LTJG/LT Stephen E. Goldhammer (Arctic East 1969 and Arctic East 1970)
I reported aboard Southwind as a LTJG on 24 June 1969 at Curtis Bay, MD with LT (later RADM) Rudy Peschel, LTJG John Carroll, ENS Ray McFadden, and the 10 enlisted members of the aviation detachment. I was assigned a forward stateroom with ENS Eckhard (Ed) Magsig. I was thrilled to be an HH-52A Aircraft Commander flying all around the Arctic at the age of 24, and getting paid for it! I kept a daily log of the flights of HH-52A‘s CGNR 1379 and 1360, the aviation detachment activities, and the ship‘s itinerary. 12 July was Arctic Circle crossing initiation day. On 31 July, we flew both helos up a long fjord about 60 miles to Sondestrom Air Force Base to pick up mail. We had a 40 knot tailwind flying up the fjord and that‘s the fastest ground speed I‘ve ever experienced in an HH-52, 130 knots! Before we departed Southwind, we filled a mailbag full of newspaper. We returned with six pounds of three-week old mail. As I flew by Southwind to show the crew the bag
of mail, it suddenly fell from my Fortunately, it was the bag filled with on them. Since we also had some real
crewman‘s hands into the water!
The crew was aghast!
newspapers, and the crew fell for the little trick mail, the crew wasn‘t too unhappy with us.
One of the most eventful things that happened on the cruise was the grounding on 15 August. We were doing depth soundings of uncharted waters in position 75o56‘N, 61o15‘W off the west coast of Greenland with ENS Bob Glynn as OOD. We drew 28 feet and we found the top of a pinnacle 25 feet under water at 1945Q. The noise along the bow sounded at first like we were passing over a large chunk of ice. We were in 200 fathoms until 20 minutes before grounding. The depth decreased to 160 feet and the last recorded depth was 85 feet before we struck. There were no other shoals or reefs in the area. We were pitched up 12 degrees. We flooded two compartments in bow motor shaft alley and tore a 32 foot hole in the hull. We also flooded all of our toilet paper. The helicopters immediately took off from athwartship to lighten the load. That didn‘t work. We secured from General Quarters at 0120Q. Northwind arrived the following morning and lent us four cases of toilet paper. We finally worked ourselves free at 0030Q on 17 August and continued normal operations before arriving at Thule Air Force Base on 29 August. Southwind‘s divers surveyed the hull damage and drew a sketch of it. The engineers built a wooden patch on the flight deck, lowered it over the port side, secured it with lines around the hull, and then pumped out the two flooded compartments. When the compartments were dry, the engineers filled them with concrete. After the concrete dried and the divers did an inspection, we departed Thule and continued normal operations for two more months. Since we were in uncharted waters at the time of the grounding, there was no disciplinary action against any of the crew. The ship‘s Engineering department won a Coast Guard Engineering award for their innovative solution to repair the hole in the hull and permit Southwind to continue its mission. The only unhappy people involved in this whole evolution were the workers at Curtis Bay who had to remove the hull plates and the concrete when Southwind returned.
I learned how to play Bridge on this trip by watching other people play in the Wardroom. On the way home in the open ocean, we found out that the bell on Southwind‘s bridge would ring by itself at 52o of roll! That was quite an experience. Luckily, she was designed to roll to 80o and back. The two helicopters departed Southwind on 29 September and returned to Mobile, AL.
I traded icebreaker trips with a friend of mine in Mobile, and passed up an opportunity for a trip to Antarctica, so I could sail on Southwind to Europe in 1970 with the same great CO, Ed Cassidy, that I served with the previous summer. Our XO on Arctic East 1970, LCDR Bob Nelson, was a future Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard!