This is an interesting report to anyone familar with navigating in the Gulf of St Lawrence and St Lawrence River during the winter months.
Even for ships designed for icebreaking, the amount of slush makes life interesting in the engineroom at times. For a ship like the Great Century which was not designed for service in ice covered waters and an engineroom staff unfamilar with problems experienced, it must have been a nightmare.
When I worked on the icebreakers, it was not uncommon to see vessels in the Gulf with crew totally unprepared for the weather conditions, or vessels heading into the river with absolutely no ballast and the propeller spinning in the air/ice/water interface as they prepared to go alongside and take on ore at Sept Isle.
On 26 February 2003, the Great Century was proceeding in fair weather down the St. Lawrence River, en route to Sept-Îles, Quebec. The vessel's progress was hindered by heavy ice concentration and, in the vicinity of Champlain, the diesel engine generators overheated. The ship's electrical power supply was affected and, therefore, the main propulsion system could not maintain its output and was eventually shut down. Shortly thereafter, the Great Century experienced a blackout. An officer was dispatched to the forecastle to let go the anchors, but they were frozen in the hawse pipes. The vessel drifted in the ice flow and grounded outside the channel some 2 nautical miles down river off Pointe à la Citrouille. During the up-coming tide, the vessel was refloated with tug assistance. There was no injury or pollution as a result of this occurrence.