Tuesday 24 March 2020

CCGS PIERRE RADISSON - Medium Icebreaker (Revisited)

Built in 1978 CCGS PIERRE RADISSON is makings good speed by Crysler Farm Battlefied Park and Mariatown.
What a difference a year makes. About this time last year I was standing along the St. Lawrence River listening in aw as the big or as the Canadian Coast Guard prefers to call it, medium icebreaker PIERRE RADISSON crashed through a huge field of ice east of Morrisburg like a knife slicing through whipped cream. It was March 22, and the RADISSON was on her way to assist shipping on the upper Great Lakes an activity that she'd been required to do in past, with the exception of perhaps this spring.
Unlike this winter where except for my backyard, much of the Great Lakes region had very little or no snow at all, and most bodies of water were completely free of ice while in mid January 2019, Lake Superior had lots of it and Erie was over 90% ice covered in places. To makes matter worse, gale force winds blew across the continent in February causing huge ice ridges and banks that I hadn't seen since I was a kid growing up in Port Colborne. Along with the help of their American counterparts the Canadian Coast Guard's "Light" icebreakers GRIFFON and SAMUEL RISLEY which had been busy all winter escorting tankers and other carriers to supply communities with needed cargoes, could not break through either. The cry went out and the mighty PIERRE RADISSON was on its way in.
Today the Welland Canal opened and from what I've seen in Janey Anderson's Facebook ship watcher's posts, who was at Port Coborne this morning, no vessels encountered any ice issues. Such was not the case when the RADISSON arrived at Port Colborne a year ago today. Not only was there ice in the harbour, but not far from the canal entrance breakwalls, she encountered ice ridges two and half to three metres high. It was almost a week before the PIERRE RADISSON and GRIFFON could make safe shipping tracks for the 10 vessels waiting in Port Colborne and at various walls along the canal, to get their season underway.
Photo by Our Midland.ca Local News - April 19, 2019
Meanwhile, the call went out for the light icebreaker MARTHA L. BLACK to assist at Cape Vincent at the St. Lawrence Seaway's Lake Ontario entrance because of ice ridges there, and two more medium icebreakers. Once CCGS AMUNDSEN arrived then followed by CCGS DES GROSEILLIERS soon after, the PIERRE RADISSON continued up through to Thunder BAY and eventually broke out BAIE COMEAU in Midland on April 19th which had been trapped there due to ice ridges on Georgian Bay as well.
Arctic research vessel during the summer CCGS AMUNDSEN breaks ice in winter at Mariatown - April 4, 2019.
CCGS AMUNDSEN (formerly SIR JOHN FRANKLIN) was the second medium icebreaker built in 1978 at Burrard Dry Dock, North Vancouver.

Light icebreaker CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK also no stranger to spring ice operations on the Great Lakes disturbs a flock of Canada Geese while approaching Iroquois Lock on March 27, 2019. 
Dark sky and setting sun as DES GROSEILLIERS passes Morrisburg.
- April 10, 2019.
The 5,775 gross tonne 322'  medium icebreakers are designed for Coast Guard operations in the Arctic Ocean. Their two fixed-pitch propellers are powered by 6 Alco M241F diesel engines that when driving the shafts can create 17,580 shaft horsepower which allows their powerful propulsion system to break ice over a metre thick at a speed of 6 knots. They have a top speed of 16 knots (30 k/h, a range of 15,000 nautical miles and cants at sea for up to 120 days. They have a flight deck with a retractable hanger to house their light Bell 206L helicopter which provides air reconnaissance to identify safer commercial routes.

CCGS DES GROSEILLIERS was built in 1985 at Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines.
CCGS GRIFFON returning home to Prescott from winter ice ops - April 4, 2018
Between late December 2018 and April 2019, six Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers travelled 19,173 kilometres escorting commercial vessels through the ice on the Great Lakes. Canada and the United States shares icebreaking duties between our two nations as needed and combined with U.S. Coast Guard vessels, they assisted 522 ship transits. While light icebreakers CCGS GRIFFON and SAMUEL RISLEY are dedicated to the Great Lakes each year, it sure is nice to know that once old man winter with his arctic blast from over the top returns, at least there's a few extra big or "medium-sized" guns available to make a clear passage regardless of the flag your flying.
CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY lowers a workboat at Johnstown - September 5,2015