Icebergs, bergy bits or growlers. Whatever you call them, these massive chunks of ice – some the size of a small country – all pose a threat for ships transiting the North Atlantic. But thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol and their partners, mariners will have the information they need to stay safe, and out of harm’s way.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol took over the ice-reporting responsibility from the Canadian Ice Service on Wednesday, officially marking the start of the 2012 ice season. The Ice Patrol is now responsible for issuing daily iceberg analysis products, which provides key safety information for mariners transiting in Atlantic waters.
Prior to 2011, the Canadian Ice Service published a daily iceberg analysis for Canadian coastal waters and the International Ice Patrol published a seasonal daily iceberg warning when icebergs threatened transatlantic shipping lanes. Last year, the services combined efforts to produce one daily iceberg analysis to be issued by Ice Patrol during their traditional season – February through July – and to be issued by the Canadian Ice Service for the remainder of the year.
Both the International Ice Patrol and Canadian Ice Service now operate under the North American Ice Service, or NAIS, a unified source of ice information for the U.S. and Canadian governments.
The move to NAIS’ unified source of iceberg products was a significant step in improving efficiency. By combining resources and improving effectiveness they have created a one-stop-shop for the maritime community to get critical iceberg information. Both ice services spent considerable effort in harmonizing the iceberg products to provide a seamless transition for the countless mariners that rely on iceberg information for safe navigation in the Atlantic.
The 2012 ice season will be a busy one for the Ice Patrol, and in the upcoming weeks their crews will deploy the first ice reconnaissance detachment of the season to Newfoundland to meet with Canadian partners and conduct initial reconnaissance for the season.
After surveying the iceberg population during their Newfoundland deployment, Ice Patrol members will be able to determine the outlook for the 2012 ice season.
Iceberg reconnaissance is conducted primarily with aircrews from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., in an HC-130J Hercules airplane, the perfect platform for their mission. Using the aircraft’s specialized sensors, radar and visual observations are employed for iceberg detection and identification.
Last year’s ice season was comparatively lighter than previous years, based on the traditional measure of the number of icebergs passing south of latitude 48 degrees north. 2011 also provided distinctive threats to mariners, including an ice island that calved from the Petermann Glacier in August 2010. The ice calving produced several ice island fragments and hundreds of icebergs that traveled south along the coast of Labrador. Fortunately, most remained inshore and deteriorated north of Newfoundland without affecting major transatlantic shipping routes.
Another big part of the 2012 season will be commemorating 100 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic. The International Ice Patrol was established as a direct result of the sinking of RMS Titanic and commemorates the ship every year with a memorial wreath drop over the resting position. This year, in collaboration with the Titanic Historical Society, the Ice Patrol will conduct a special memorial drop of rose petals that were carried by museum visitors through Titanic exhibits.
Over the last century, Ice Patrol has established an enviable safety record – no ship heeding Ice Patrol warnings has ever collided with an iceberg. Ice Patrol strives to maintain that safety record throughout 2012’s ice season, with their Canadian Ice Service and National Ice Center partners.
Keep checking Coast Guard Compass in the upcoming months as we provide more updates from the International Ice Patrol and share the 100-year commemoration of the RMS Titanic.
This article first appeared on Coast Guard Compass, the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard.