Chase the ice

Ice­breaker CCGS Henry Larsen pre­pares for voy­age to the Arc­tic

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY BETH PEN­NEY SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Capt. Byron Briggs be­gins his 13th sum­mer in the Arc­tic as the ice­breaker Cana­dian Coast Guard ship (CCGS) Henry Larsen pre­pares to head north for the sea­son.

With about 46 mem­bers on board, this jour­ney is a first for some.

“You ei­ther love it or you hate it,” said Briggs. “Win­ter all year long is tough for some, but the his­tory of the Arc­tic keeps me go­ing.”

From De­cem­ber to May, the ice­breaker op­er­ates along Canada’s east coast, from New­found­land to Mon­treal and in the Great Lakes.

From June to Novem­ber, six icebreaker­s op­er­ate in the Arc­tic to as­sist with ship­ping and de­liv­er­ing cargo to iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties.

“We ba­si­cally be­come like a snow­plow for other ships,” said Briggs. “If there’s any ice-break­ing to do in or­der to keep the com­mer­cial traf­fic go­ing, we sup­ply the north­ern com­mu­ni­ties with that ser­vice.”

The ship has just fin­ished its re­fit, main­te­nance on all equip­ment, as well as the mo­tor ve­hi­cle in­spec­tion.

“Once we leave, we are our own self-con­tained city,” said Briggs. “We must have sup­plies for rou­tine tasks, and also sup­plies for if an emer­gency comes along.”

One ma­jor task is bring­ing a he­li­copter on board.

“It’s a valu­able tool when we’re ice-break­ing,” said Briggs. “It’s our eye in the sky, so we can see fur­ther ahead from what we see on the bridge.”

The he­li­copter is also used for rescues in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions.

The crew will par­tic­i­pate in re­search projects through­out their jour­ney.

They will mon­i­tor the flow of the wa­ter and ocean cur­rents, and how it’s chang­ing be­cause of global warm­ing.

They will re­turn to the east coast in mid-Novem­ber.

BETH PEN­NEY/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

A he­li­copter comes in for a land­ing on the CCGS Henry Larsen, in prepa­ra­tion for its trip north.

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