Sunday 12 April 2015

Medium Gulf/River Icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON

Guess who? c);-b
Unlike this year, when I grew up in Port Colborne, a typical winter mostly consisted of snow and lots of it. Located 20 miles west Buffalo, New York, whatever snow accumulation the Niagara Frontier city at the east end of Lake Erie got, we got it first. The white stuff usually started arriving near the end of November and stayed until the end of March, or longer. Whatever snow that didn't fall during a typical "dump" (a Canadian term for a 6 to 12" or 15-30 cm, snowfall), the rest was blown in off of a frozen solid Lake Erie. Walking to Snider Public School back then was always an adventure. Though most sidewalks would have been cleared off, it was a lot more fun to simply trudge through the knee-to-hip deep snow that was shovelled from neighbours' driveways into high mounds of snow. "I'm the king of the castle, and you're the dirty rascal" is what you'd call out if you were able to shove a schoolmate off a roadside mountain and into the snow, or vice versa.
Conquering the ice banks with sisters Cheryl and Nancy in late 60's
What was even more fun was when we'd drive to my grandparents farm which was located near the shores of the lake at Lowbanks almost every Sunday after church. The old homestead is still there at the corner of Lakeshore and Burkett roads. Soon after saying hello to everyone, my sisters and I would scurry out usually with our dad and head down to the snow-covered beach and climb the 15' to 20' high ice bank ridges that appeared to guard the shoreline like a breakwall for miles in each direction. Created by constantly crashing waves and snow blown ashore during our early winter's frigid cold days and nights, the pinnacle offered a great view of the frozen lake below and the slope was steep and fast when tobogganing or just sliding down on your butt. Those were the days. c):-D
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and when the winds start to howl, watch out as waves 8'-10' high that are not able to crash into a shoreline, will simply lift the ice and stack the jagged clear slabs high on top of each other rising anywhere from 5 to 10 feet high causes ice ridges that would extend itself for miles.
ARTHUR M. ANDERSON locked in ice near Ashtabula, OH on February 19, 2015. Canadian Coast Guard photo
A crewman marks the distance from flight deck, as reversing CCGS GRIFFON 
cautiously approaches and clears ice around ARTHUR M. ANDERSON's stern.
- CCGS photo. 
It was conditions likes these that prevented the 767'  ARTHUR M. ANDERSON from entering Conneaut, Ohio in February to load cargo for Gary, Indiana. Escorted by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BRISTOL BAY the closest the American ore carrier came to her destination was four miles of shore. While her escort remained locked in the ice, the BRISTOL BAY attempted to pick up provisions and fuel in Ashtabula but the icebreaking cutter could not smash through the ice ridges outside the Ohio lakeport.
USCG cutter BRISTOL BAY encountering brash icefield
5-6' thick off Ashtabula. U.S. Coast Guard photo by 
Lt. Cmdr. John Henry  
The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker GRIFFON which had been escorting Algoma tankers to and from Nanticoke, Ontario, came across Lake Erie to aid her U.S. icebreaking partner, ramming those the high ridges and remained with the BRISTOL BAY as she reached Cleveland instead for refuelling. As the BRISTOL BAY headed to Detroit for repairs, the GRIFFON pushed on back to ARTHUR M. ANDERSON and along with CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY, which left icebreaking duties on the St. Clair River, the two Canadian icebreakers freed the ANDERSON.
Freed ARTHUR M. ANDERSON heading to Detroit while
assisted by CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY.  CCGS Photo
Motoring behind the GRIFFON, the empty ore carrier got underway on the 14th day of a trip that should have only taken two and a half to complete, heading westward to Detroit with the RISLEY assisting while the GRIFFON returned to Nanticoke to assist the tankers ALGOCANADA and ALGOSEA to their destination.
After all vessels were refuelled, the GRIFFON and SAMUEL RISLEY returned to assist the ANDERSON along with USCGC NEAH BAY up the St. Clair River to the open waters of Lake Huron and eventually arriving at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for winter lay up on March 4th.
Due to anticipated ice condition issues, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority delayed the opening of the new shipping season for the first time since 1997 until April 2 this year, one week later than normal. While the Seaway opened as usual last year on March 28th, after transiting the locks, ships ended up being laid up for at least week due to thick ice conditions from Lake Erie onwards. This year's opening delay allowed additional Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers the opportunity to clear up channels, harbours and create shipping tracks before commercial bulk carriers could enter the system and Great Lakes. The duties of the light icebreaker, CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK primarily focused on icebreaking activities in the Bay of Quinte, eastern Lake Ontario, and the Seaway to the Beauharnois locks, (you can see more about her in my last post, while the medium icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON photographed by my ship-watching friend Ron Beaupre off his "dock" in Mariatown, above and approaching Iroquois Lock, below on March 29th was also sent into the Great Lakes.
Built in North Vancouver, British Columbia in 1978, the 322' x 62' CCGS PIERRE RADISSON is a Medium River/Gulf icebreaker which works in the Gulf and St. Lawrence River area in the winter, the Great Lakes in the spring, if needed and in the Arctic during the summer months.. Her max speed is 16.7 knots or 31 km/hr and the RADISSON is also equipped with helicopter. After transiting Iroquois Lock, the big icebreaker made good speed breaking river ice, and pushing open water further up the St. Lawrence, across Lake Ontario and over the Niagara Escarpment via the Welland Canal to Port Colborne where my friend Nathan Attard snapped these shots below as PIERRE RADISSON exited Lock 8 on March 30th.
Weighing close to 6,000 tons, the unique bow on the RADISSON and other icebreakers allows her to rise above the ice in what's known as "beaching conditions" while her full weight bears down and breaks the ice. When approaching an ice ridge, icebreakers like the PIERRE RADISSON, will ram the ridge at full speed several times until she breaks through. While most Great Lakes like Erie received ice coverage similar to last year due to extreme cold temperatures from January to early March, the ice plates apparently are not as thick as last year.

While the CCGS PIERRE RADISSON had no problems tracking or breaking ice on Lake Erie, conditions were very different at the eastern end of Lake Superior. While initially some ore carriers were able to cross the lake without major issues within days of the opening of the Soo Locks on March 25th, conditions changed significantly within a week as 25-30" ice plates and stacked ice ridges 4-5' high were reported from the Soo Locks to 15 miles west of Whitefish Point bringing movement in both direction to a halt. To make matters worse, an unexplained water leak in the port azipod of the U.S. Coast Guard's heaviest Great Lakes icebreaker MACKINAW ( required her to limp back to the Soo for inspection.
Meanwhile, CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY already sent up to Lake Superior to assist where needed, took over MACKINAW's duties and the big medium icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON was then dispatched to make her way to Lake Superior.
CCGS GRIFFON was sent to take over ice breaking activities on the St. Lawrence River and Seaway, while MARTHA L. BLACK motored to Port Colborne to take over tracking and ice breaking duties on Lake Erie.
On April 8th, the RADISSON locked through the Soo and early the next day she crossed into Lake Superior with seven upbound lakers following behind her. Though reduced to the use of only the her starboard azipod, USCG cutter MACKINAW was able to assist with convoy escort duties. Meanwhile, the sleek Canadian icebreaker SAMUEL RISLEY, escorted six downbound lakers to the Soo Locks.
In recent days, those lakers that were trapped in the ice and freed by the RADISSON, have reached their destinations. Some have taken on loads and are already starting their downbound trip back. The first bulk carrier to arrive at Thunder Bay and two weeks earlier than last year, the TECUMSEH ( is loading her hull with another bumper crop of prairie grain.

The United States and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers do what they have to do as a team keeping the shipping lanes and trades routes open regardless of the weather conditions. Isn't it amazing what can be completed when good neighbours and friends work together as one. Makes me proud. How about you? c):-D

No comments:

Post a Comment