Summer in Canada

CCGS Louis S St Laurent leaves Dartmouth CG Base for the Arctic on July 4th

Here in Halifax, one of the signs of Summer is the sight of the Canadian Coast Guard heavy icebreakers sailing out of the harbour for the high Arctic. In 2007, the CG heavy icebreaking fleet consists of the CCGS Terry Fox and the workhorse Louis S St Laurent, which is reaching 40 years of service.

Over the years their missions have changed dramatically, but they are still the sign of Canadian sovereignity in the Arctic.
At one time the main mission was escorting tankers and ore carriers in to the mining towns of Nanisivik, Little Cornwallis Island and Resolute. The icebreakers spent long summers in the Arctic waiting for the ships to travel to Europe or Montreal, discharge and return.

Today they are more likely to be found doing Science programs and Arctic resupply. The closing of the mines in the Arctic means fewer ships to escort.

In the '70s and '80s crew changes were infrequent and it was not uncommon for a crew member to make the full trip which could be 120 days or more. In the '90s crew changes were every 6-8 weeks and a crew member had to accumulate enough leave to be able to leave the ship and go South, nowadays the ships are working a layday schedule that ensures that crews are rotated out regularly. 30 years ago woman on these ships were virtually unheard of, today each carries woman officers and crew along with scientists.

2007 marks the last year that the CCGS Terry Fox will leave Halifax for the Arctic. The ship will be transfered to St John's, Nfld in April of 2008. The Louis S St Laurent follows in 2009, her home port will be Argentia, Nfld.

This is an economic windfall for Nfld, that over the life of the vessels will be well into tens of millions of dollars and 130 jobs as the Maritime crew is replaced. (There is no word on the implication to the Maritime shore support staff.)

After decades of the Coast Guard icebreakers sailing past Maugers Beach on their way to the Arctic, there will be no more. A very sad day indeed.

Coast Guard helps out teen

Icebreaker will toss bottles for school project

By STEVE BRUCE Staff Reporter (Chronicle Heald, Halifax)

The crew of Canada’s largest icebreaker will drop 240 beer bottles into the ocean during the ship’s annual expedition to the Arctic, and they’ll do it with the captain’s blessing.

The coast guard vessel will just be helping a 14-year-old Cole Harbour girl complete a school project on ocean currents.

Bonita LeBlanc waved from shore at the Dartmouth coast guard base Wednesday as the Louis S. St-Laurent set sail for the Far North, where it will assert Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, conduct scientific research in conjunction with International Polar Year and clear commercial shipping lanes.

The 20 dozen corked bottles, each with a numbered note inside, will be dropped at predetermined points along the ship’s northern voyage.

Bonita hopes anyone who finds one of the bottles will follow the instructions on the note and record the time and location of the discovery on a Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.

If past experiments with drift bottles are any indication, Bonita’s bottles could wash ashore as far away as the Caribbean, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Spain, she told reporters Wednesday on the bridge of the Louis S. St-Laurent.

But Bonita, who is going into Grade 9 at Ecole du Carrefour in Dartmouth, doesn’t expect to hear back about any of the bottles before she has to present her science project next year.

"The average time is about two years for a bottle to be found," said Tony Potts, a coast guard employee who helped Bonita set up the project.

Bonita said she was inspired to conduct her experiment after reading a Canadian Geographic article last summer about Eddie Carmack, a federal scientist who uses drift bottles to track ocean currents.

Her e-mail to Mr. Carmack made its way to Mr. Potts, a former captain of the Louis S. St-Laurent, who said he was impressed with her enthusiasm.

"It’s very simple science," Mr. Potts said. "We just foster it along."

Bonita said only one of every 25 bottles set adrift in these kinds of experiments is usually reported found.

She said the bottles, donated by Sleeman’s, are biodegradable, "so anyone who thinks I’m littering, I’m not."

But she still feels compelled to do something extra to help the environment.

"My idea is because I’m throwing something into the ocean, I’m going to take something out," she said. "I’m going to go around to some beaches and I’m going to clean them up."

Capt. Andrew McNeill said the vessel is scheduled to return to Dartmouth on Nov. 20, but it could be later if there’s a delay in the commercial shipping season up north.

"We can’t leave until the last tanker is out," Capt. McNeill said.

Ottawa announced in April that the Louis S. St-Laurent and another icebreaker stationed in Dartmouth, the Terry Fox, will be moved to Newfoundland and Labrador over the next two years to allow them to be closer to the Arctic.

There have been reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to go on an Arctic sovereignty patrol this year.

"I haven’t heard anything yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if something was announced," Capt. McNeill said

The ship had 74 people on board when it sailed Wednesday, including 22 scientists who will carry out more than 40 experiments covering wildlife, human health and climate change.

"We’re embarking today on the start of a project called Canada’s Three Oceans, where we’re looking at the physical and biological oceanography of the oceans that encircle Canada," said John Nelson, a research scientist from the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C.

"One of our main goals is to establish a baseline snapshot of what’s happening in the Arctic’s physical and biological oceanography that we can use to assess future change. If we go next year or the year after that, we can do the same sorts of measurements and see how things have changed over that time frame."