Frozen in time: Iqaluit sealift delayed by dense pack ice

“The only real way to assess ice is to go through it”

By DAVID MURPHY

The CCGS Pierre Radisson, pictured here when it first came into Iqaluit in early July of 2014, can’t get into Iqaluit right now because of condensed ice conditions in Frobisher Bay. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)


The CCGS Pierre Radisson, pictured here when it first came into Iqaluit in early July of 2014, can’t get into Iqaluit right now because of condensed ice conditions in Frobisher Bay. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Though the first week of July has already passed, Iqaluit might have to wait at least another week before the first sealift vessels can offload cargo into town.

It’s been a cold spring and now there’s so much compact ice in Frobisher Bay that a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker can’t escort sealift ships to shore.

Right now the CCGS Pierre Radisson, a class medium Arctic icebreaker, lies outside Frobisher Bay playing the waiting game.

“She’s attempting to get in,” Michel Desormeaux, superintendent of the Canadian Coast Guard’s regional operations centre in Montreal, told Nunatsiaq News.

“It’s been three weeks of packing out there, the ice is under a lot of pressure in Frobisher Bay right now,” he said.

According to ice specialists in Montreal, there’s another week of southeast wind for the Frobisher Bay area, Desormeaux said.

“As soon as the wind can alleviate, then if the pressure comes off the ice, it is probably going to start deteriorating, and especially if temperatures stay above 0 C,” Desormeaux said.

But he’s “not making promises,” meaning it could take longer than a week.

Good news is, according to a June 7 Environment Canada projection, the temperature will not, in fact, sink below 0 C over the next seven days.

So now it’s just a matter of watching how the ice evolves in the bay.

“Depending on conditions, and if appropriate, the helicopter will go out and assess the ice ahead. But the only real way to assess ice is to go through it. And that’s what the Radisson is doing now.”

Recently the Radisson tried escorting a Woodwards oil tanker into Iqaluit, but it couldn’t get through the dense ice.

Usually the Coast Guard starts the shipping season by escorting boats in at the beginning of July. But this year, sealift companies have been forced to rearrange schedules.

“So all we can do now is continue with our programs as well as assisting the sealift where possible, and just wait for conditions to improve,” Desormeaux said.

The Radisson itself has a few things it needs to offload in Iqaluit, including fuel for the Polar Continental Shelf Program.

It also has technicians on board waiting to work on Killinek, the Marine Centre and Traffic Services centre — or radio transmitter towers — in Iqaluit.

The MCTS centre helps with vessel traffic and marine weather information.

The Canadian Ice Service’s 10-day animated map of ice conditions in Canadian waters shows lots of ice left in Frobisher Bay.

Another ice chart from July 6 shows high concentrations of ice blocking a route into Iqaluit.

It’s a different story in western Hudson Strait, however. The CCGS Terry Fox is already escorting ships into communities, Desormeaux said.

Other than being stuck on ice, the Radisson was busy this past week.

The ship just returned from a four-day mission to Salluit, Nunavik, where the Coast Guard helped locate and rescue three hunters.

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