ABOARD CCGS AMUNDSEN – As the song says in the musical The Man of La Mancha, it doesn’t matter whether the stone hits the water pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, the result isn’t going to be good for the pitcher. So it is with a Class 3 icebreaker and Arctic ice that’s been formed only this winter.
|Amundsen Captain Lise Marchard checks instruments on the ship’s bridge prior to moving the research icebreaker to a new position in the Western Arctic. Pull-down plastic shades provide relief from the glare of Arctic ice and snow.|
The six diesel-electric engines of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen deliver 15,000 horsepower to propel the 98-metre vessel with its 6,000-tonne displacement. Hit by that force at 10 knots, the ice peeled back like the old blistered paint scrapped from my garage this summer. While the visuals aren’t much, the sounds will linger forever in the memory of any visitor fortunate enough to be aboard when an icebreaker lives up to its name. In the bowels of the ship, the grinding of ice against the hull is amplified into a deep rumble, like rocks being continually dumped onto a metal sheet just outside your front door.
Leaning over the ship bow, however, the assault upon the cryosphere has an almost lyrical aspect, a sliding between different pitches which a composer would mark as glissando on a score. And also resoluto, meaning to play boldly with energy.
The Amundsen was en route today to a new ice floe berth around the east side of Banks Island. But we stopped en route to gather samples of water and ice for scientific studies so we won’t be able to reach our intended destination in daylight.
UPDATE: The musical duet of the ice and the icebreaker continued for another hour-and-a-half into the late evening and then stopped. The Amundsen is now stuck in a floe that's thick enough and binding enough to be second-year ice. We've tried wiggling without success. Now the crew is looking at pumping ballast water to raise the bow and lower the stern, giving the propellers a deeper bite. If that doesn't work, they may pump some warm water out onto the ice to soften it and lubricate the surface. I'm so confident that this will be solved that I'm turning in for the night.