Glacier was designed and built for the U.S. Navy at Ingalls Shipbuilding Company in Pascagoula, Miss. Construction began in August 1953 and Glacier was completed and commissioned in May 1955. Her first homeport was Boston. 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 the flagship for the noted polar explorer Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd during that first trip to the Antarctic.
In 1966, national responsibility for icebreaker operations was transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard. Glacier shifted services and homeports. From Long Beach, Calif., she continued to service both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Since that first trip, Glacier has made more than two dozen Antarctic trips and more than a dozen Arctic trips in support of scientific research.
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 Bernard G. Koether II undertook navigational duties.
During all these expeditions Glacier hosted many scientists who embarked 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 U.S. 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