Archive for April, 2007

First, here is the Fisheries and Oceans Media Room, with a map of the current situation and some photos of the rescue operations.

After a week of westerlies, southwesterlies, and a few northwesterlies, there has been great progress. The ice, while still thick and densely packed, has moved offshore in many areas, allowing some boats to free themselves, and making it easier for the Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers to cut channels to let the longliners make it to open water.

According to VOCM and CBC, here is the latest numerological trivia

  • 11 were freed over the weekend
  • 8 vessels are still trapped in the ice about 37 km north of Fogo,
  • these 8 vessels contain 29 crew, down from 400-600 estimated at the beginning of the rescue,
  • psychiatrists and conflict resolution experts are going to have a field day, and showers are going to be in heavy demand,
  • in the last two weeks 20 ships travelled south to open ports,
  • 72 boats were escorted,
  • one longliner was destroyed, the Dodd & Sons,
  • one longliner was damaged and required a tow,
  • at least 5 were abandoned,
  • at least 3 commercial carriers (freighters,tankers, etc) had requested escort assistance,
  • and up to 6 icebreakers were involved in Search and Rescue operations, including the Terry Fox, the Ann Harvey, the Henry Larsen, the George Pearkes, the Des Groselliers, and the Sir Wilfred Grenfell.

One of the big problems last week was the solidity of the pack. While it was pushed east by the wind, it tended to stay together, continuing to trap the boats. This week, over the next couple of day there will be strong easterly winds which will gradually back to north and northwest later in the week. This will tend to drive the ice back onto the coast of the Northern Peninsula and the Northeast Coast. The bottom line is that they need to work hard and quickly to get the last eight out before the ice closes in again.

Here is the current ice field map. In addition, there are new ice warnings for the Northeast Coast and the East Coast, as follows:

FICN18 CWIS 301344

Ice hazard bulletin for the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador

issued by Environment Canada at 1400 UTC Monday 30 April 2007 for

today and Tuesday.

The next scheduled bulletin will be issued at 1400 UTC Tuesday.No warnings in effect unless noted.

Light to moderate ice pressure may occur in any ice conditions.

Ice edge estimated from Newfoundland near 4745N 5245W to 4825N 5125W

to 5120N 5230W to 5400N 5215W to 5740N 5845W to 6200N 5920W then

northeastward. Sea ice west of ice edge.

Strait of Belle Isle.

Rapid closing of coastal leads warning in effect.

Ice pressure warning in effect.

4 tenths first year ice including a trace of old ice except 9 plus

tenths first year ice with a trace of old ice along the south coast.

Coastal leads along the north shore will close tonight. Strong ice

pressure will develop along the north shore on Tuesday.

Northeast Coast.

Rapid closing of coastal leads warning in effect.

Ice pressure warning in effect.

7 tenths first year ice including one tenth of old ice except 9 plus

tenths first year ice with 3 tenths old ice near Cape St John.

Coastal leads along the northern peninsula will close on Tuesday.

Strong ice pressure will develop east of Cape St. John tonight and

persist on Tuesday.

East Coast.

Special ice warning in effect.

Ice pressure warning in effect.

3 tenths first year ice including a trace of old ice northwest of ice

edge. Bergy water elsewhere. Unusual presence of first year ice in

Trinity Bay. Strong ice pressure will develop in northern half of

Bonavista Bay tonight. Ice pressure will ease Tuesday afternoon.

By this time it is clear that the Coast Guard has done an exemplary job, and deserves our respect. This is the largest operation of this type conducted in Canadian waters in my memory, and without loss of life or serious injuries. Thank you!


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Jaxpix50, a talented photographer on flickr.com, recently posted a wonderful picture and a youtube video of British hillsides with musical accompaniment. It made me think of Kubrick’s 2001. I hope you like it.

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I went into the catacombs of the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations. While the borogoves seemed fairly mimsy, the snackers were snickering over the poor bones of innocent citizens. I came out with the following:

  • From B.01.001.1 (1)  (this makes me think that the government can’t count above binary) here are the recommended daily values for the following nutrients. This still begs the question of what type of human these amounts are representative of…
    • 65 g of fat
    • 20 g of the sum of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids
    • 300 mg of cholesterol
    • 300 g of carbohydrates
    • 25 g of fibre
    • 2400 mg sodium
    • 3500 mg of potassium
  • and here are some guidelines about recommended serving sizes as given by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Guide to Labelling and Advertisement. The bottom line is that companies have wide latitude in determining the serving sizes, but they have to be consistent in use. For example, if the package contains four servings, the directions for use and recipes should also refer to the same serving size. Either weight should be used throughout, or volume should be used throughout. If the package contains an amount that would realistically be eaten in one sitting, that determines the serving size. Just for fun, here are some allowed serving sizes for typical items
    • bagel 25-100 g
    • medium cake 50-125 g
    • cream cheese 15-60 g
    • cream 10-30 ml
    • frozen yogurt 60-250 ml

So the bottom line is that you have some arithmetic ahead of you, which should put you back about 2-3 calories, which is all to the good. I’d recommend fish.

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Today I went to the grocery store. I decide to try a new cereal, and have a glance at the “Nutrition Facts” label. Then I look at a second, then a third, then a fourth, then I try a couple from Kelloggs, then a few from Post Cereals, then my teeth start grinding…

Under recent Canadian law, all processed foods need nutrition information to be listed, including the amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, trans-fats, cholesterol, and various nutrients and vitamins. Everyone is required to comply by December 12, 2007. The process that led to these new regulations was a battle royale that makes Baghdad look like Mayberry. Some of the more controversial issues were

  • how to express the amounts (it was decided to use % of recommended daily intake, which was fought over bitterly by the companies)
  • the inclusion of trans-fats within fats (they are particularly dangerous, and have never been given out before)
  • cholesterol amounts, etc.

Today I was reminded of a loophole that was carefully kept unplugged. It seems there is leeway in specifying the serving sizes that the nutrition amounts are based on. Not only that, but a single company can use different serving amounts for the same sort of product, and I saw it in one case for different box sizes of the same type of cereal! For example, here are some of the serving sizes for a “typical serving” I saw today; 1/2 cup, 2/3 cup. 3/4 cup, 1 cup, and 11/4 cup. The smallest size is 40% of the largest size, or the largest size is 250% the size of the smallest, depending on how you view your cups!

The whole point of nutrition labels is to determine the health content of food in a simple and convenient manner (hence “typical” serving being something that is realistically typical), and also to be able to directly compare different brands to see which fits your needs the best. This loophole deliberately acts against this intent. It is almost lying in intent, in that they are trying to make it difficult to directly compare different products.

On the positive side, it is good practice in fractions, percentages, and memory for those so inclined. You might almost consider it brain food.


Here are some other potential problems with current food labelling:

  • how cholesterol in food is related to serum cholesterol in your body, and thus how meaningful cholesterol levels in food labels are
  • what is the standard size consumer that they used to get  the % Daily Value? I tried looking for 30 minutes with no luck…
  • for some components, what are dangerous amounts below RDI, and what are dangerous amounts above RDI?

BTW, after all this, I’m eating bagels this week for breakfast!

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There were some hopeful tidbits in the news this afternoon. As a result of the recent progress and the recent weather, Captain Brian Penney of the Coast Guard said that if the winds hold steady for the rest of the week, the entire fleet could be freed (Canadian Press). Here are some highlights.

  • The heavy icebreaker CCGS Terry Fox is currently west of Stephenville and will make its way through the Strait of Belle Isle, then will scoot down the areas clearing on the west side of the Northeast Coast so as to help out between the Baie Verte Peninsula and Notre Dame Bay. She’ll be the largest icebreaker on site and should be a great help, as until recently the ice has been so thick that icebreakers had to team up at times to make progress.
  • The CCGS Henry Larsen and the George R. Pearkes were able to open up a passage for stranded boats about to be driven onshore with the ice (CBC).
  • Last week there were 100 vessels stranded. As of today there are
    • 43 virtually locked up solid
    • 21 able to manoeuevre to varying degrees
    • about 10 have sustained ice damaged and may need assistance returning to port. There may be more damage and other ships affected as the situation develops (CBC NL)
    • about 5 have been abandoned
    • about 50-60 non-essential crewmembers have been evacuated
    • emergency provisions have been dropped via helicopter to 22 boats so far

There are a couple of good things guaranteed to happen. Areas open to the east, and the east sides of the Northern Peninsula, the Bay Verte Peninsula, and Southern Labrador will start clearing out, as will the western portions of Bonavista Bay, the northwest part of Trinity Bay, some of the Labrador coastal part of the Strait of Belle Isle, etc. As the main field moves further away from the shore parts of it may start breaking up, making it easier for the icebreakers to escort the longliners through it. Some longliners may be able to scirt the pack to make it to port. The weather for much of Wednesday to Friday won’t be severe, with moderate to strong westerlies throughout (with some southwesterlies and northwesterlies mixed in).

The news is sounding more hopeful.

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As of today (to my knowledge) there are 5 Canadian Coast Guard Icebreakers involved in the rescue effort on the Front (the ice pack along the Northeast Coast and part of the East Coast of Newfoundland). The Terry Fox is the newest one involved in the rescue. So far there is one heavy icebreaker, two mediums, two lights, and an ice-reinforced vessel. As far as I can tell they are the following ships:

  • CCGS Terry Fox: This is one of two heavy Gulf icebreakers in the fleet. She left Halifax, currently her base of operations, yesterday and is rapidly steaming north along the West Coast of Newfoundland. As of 1200Z this morning she was west of Cape Anguille. She’ll probably start by helping vessels in the Strait of Belle Isle, then will move into the Northeast Coast from the northwest, which seems fairly clever to me. First, this may be the fastest way to get into the northern ice on the Northeast Coast, where many boats are stuck. Second, the ice will be moving generally east in the next while, and she’ll be more mobile than the other breakers. Third, because she’s the strongest icebreaker involved, she can make forays into the field from the west independently.
  • CCGS Des Groselliers: This is one of four medium Gulf/River icebreakers in the fleet. Based with the Quebec fleet, she was working in the Strait of Belle Isle recently, escorting boats to harbour.
  • CCGS Henry Larsen: This is the second of four medium Gulf/River icebreakers in the fleet. Based with the Newfoundland fleet, she was working on the northeast coast recently, successfully escorting some boats to harbour. Currently she is just east of Cape Freels between the Northeast Coast and the East Coast.
  • CCGS Ann Harvey: This is one of ten Light icebreakers, and is based with the Newfoundland fleet. She has been working off the northeast coast, and was stuck for a while last week.
  • CCGS George R. Pearkes: This is the second of ten Light Icebreakers, and is based with the Newfoundland fleet.
  • CCGS Sir Wilfred Grenfell: An Offshore Ice Strengthened Multi Patrol Vessel. She was working along with the Harvey and the Larsen last week. She was stuck in the ice on Wednesday, but was freed the next day.

Also, the CCGS Cowley, in the same class as the Grenfell, was sent north to help, but probably isn’t going into the pack (my brother-in-law was onboard doing some work and was talking to some of the crew). I’m pretty sure other non-icebreakers are up there near the edge of the pack with food, fuel, and equipment, waiting to help ships near the eastern ice edge with fodd, water, fuel, and with damage to the ships..

Update on Weather and Ice——————————–

The wind forecasts are almost unchanged from my earlier message. Captain Penney of the Coast Guard (as read from cbc.ca) believes that much of the real progress will start Tuesday or Wednesday, after the southwesterlies have had a chance to act. My guess is that most of the emergency will be winding down by Thursday.

As of yesterdays ice analysis map the ice field is forcast to move 5 nautical miles East for the Northeast Coast and the East Coast, and much of the South Labrador Coast, unless there are islands or coast to block movement. For the Strait of Belle Isle the ice will maintain some pressure along the Newfoundland side, but not to warning status.

Here are the current ice conditions:

FICN18 CWIS 231330
Ice hazard bulletin for the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador
issued by Environment Canada at 1400 UTC Monday 23 April 2007 for
today and Tuesday.
The next scheduled bulletin will be issued at 1400 UTC Tuesday.

No warnings in effect unless noted.
Light to moderate ice pressure may occur in any ice conditions.

Ice edge estimated from Newfoundland near 4725N 5245W to 4720N 5220W
to 5005N 5250W to 5025N 5425W to 5345N 5210W to 5630N 5755W to 6200N
5840W then northeastward. Sea ice west of ice edge.

Strait of Belle Isle.
8 tenths first year ice including one tenth of old ice.

Northeast Coast.
6 tenths first year ice including one tenth of old ice.

East Coast.
Special ice warning in effect.
3 tenths first year ice including a trace of old ice within ice edge
except 9 tenths first year ice with one tenth of old ice in southern
Bonavista Bay. Bergy water elsewhere. Unusual presence of first year
ice in Trinity Bay and Conception Bay.

South Labrador Coast.
8 tenths first year ice including a trace of old ice.

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This is a brief idea of the ice conditions, weather conditions, and what this will mean to the approximately 90 sealing vessels still out on the Front, and to those of the Coast Guard working around the clock to save them. The basics of how the weather will affect the ice and those currently in it is fairly easy to understand, so here goes.


Warnings: Currently the Canadian Ice Service has issued new warnings in the Strait of Belle Isle, the Northeast Coast, and the East Coast. Here are some of the highlights for Newfoundland excepted from the bulletin:

  • Strait of Belle Isle :” Strong ice pressure along south shore tonight and Sunday.”
  • Northeast Coast:”Strong ice pressure along northwest shores from 25 nm west of Cape Freels to White Bay tonight and Sunday”
  • East Coast: “Strong ice pressure in southern half of Bonavista Bay on Sunday. Unusual presence of first year ice in Trinity Bay and Conception Bay.”

For those unfamiliar with the forecast regions, the Northeast Coast extends from the Northern tip of the Great Northern Peninsula to Cape Freels east of Twillingate, and includes all coastal sections and islands in between. The East Coast extends from near Cape Freels south along the coast to south of Cape Race, and it extends an average of about 100 km east of the coast.

Current Ice Field: As of today the ice field as observed by the Canadian Ice Service is shown here. If you want to understand the detailed information in the egg codes, see here. The basics are as follows: thin first year ice is 30-70 cm thick, moderate is 70-120 cm, and thick is over 120 cm. Any ice field is usually a mix of thicknesses and stages of development, and the colour codes on the ice chart show the most developed component. For example, on the east side of the Avalon Peninsula there are two small fields, designated I (near Pouch Cove) and O (Tor Bay, which contains Torbay) . Near Pouch Cove it is 2/10 thick first year ice, 3/10 moderate, and 4/10 thin first year in pans from 2-20 metres wide. Near Tor Bay it is 3/10 concentration and is thick first year ice (in this case over 120 cm thick pans).

Main Message: The general story is moderate to thick first year ice extending from Labrador along all of the Northeast Coast and south into Bonavista Bay. Trinity Bay is filled with moderate to thick first year ice, and Conception Bay has some thick first year ice. Additionally, the eastern side of the Avalon has some thicker than normal ice in the bay east of Pouch Cove , and in Tor Bay (which contains Torbay Harbour, Outer Cove, and Middle Cove).

Wind and Weather————————————————————————

Here are a few basics. First, the ice along the section of the Newfoundland Coast of greatest concern is primarily affected by the wind, followed by some local currents which are tidal and not very strong. Second, the thicker the ice, the slower it will respond to the force of the wind or the currents. Third, once the ice is moving, if the wind forcing ends it can continue to move for a long while before the water slows it down, or it impacts the shoreline, or it moves into other ice. The latter two cases will increase ice pressure within the ice or on the shore. Fourth and critical to this event, when forced by the wind, ice will tend to move about 20-30 degrees to the right of the wind. So to get the ice moving east along the Northeast Coast, you need a southwest wind. If you have a westerly or northwesterly, the ice will tend to move southeast or south and into the coast, thus aggravating the ice pressure problem, and it may continue to block passage to the ports.

Unofficial Forecast: This is primarily based on the Canadian Global model and the United State GFS model. Also, the further into the future the greater the uncertainty of the forecast.

  • Sunday: A low pressure centre passing east of Newfoundland will give strong Northwesterlies to the pack. For the Northeast Coast this means more ice pressure, especially along the shore. For the East Coast some ice will be driven south or south-southeast and will spread into some of the bays.
  • Monday: A second low pressure system moving east across Labrador and into the Atlantic will give strong southwesterlies for a good part of the day. Late in the day this may loosen the ice and start some movement off the Northeast Coast and out of Bonavista Bay and some of the bays further south. But the ice field may not open up enough to try to make port without escorts.
  • Tuesday: A third low from the Gulf of St. Lawrence will approach Newfoundland, giving another period of southwesterlies, which should continue to improve the situation.
  • Wednesday: In the wake of the third low it looks like west to northwest winds, which aren’t ideal. If most of the ice hasn’t moved far enough to the east it could be trapped on the eastern side of the Northeast Coast (i.e. New World Island, Fogo, Twillingate). But Bonavista Bay could be mostly clear by this time, and maybe the ice could clear the coast before heading southeast. However, the winds could be more southwesterly.
  • Thursday: The low persists in the Labrador sea, giving moderate to strong west to southwesterlies. If it is mostly southwesterlies it will help a little more.
  • Beyond that….

Main Message: Late Tuesday and Wednesday are the best chance to move the ice offshore, and to then allow the longliners to make it through the ice to their harbours (but they’ll almost certainly need Coast Guard icebreaker assistance to escort them through the pack). After that period, the forecast guidance indicates westerly or southwesterly winds; the more southwesterly it is, the better for boats with home ports on the Northeast Coast. The Ease Coast situation looks better, except for some west facing harbours in the main bays. Hopefully many boats will be going home by Thursday.
Implications for the sealing fleet——————————————————

Damaged boats: This is one of the first problems the Coast Guard will have. There are numerous damaged boats, some with hull damage, others with propeller damage, and many have been pushed up on the ice. With the new ice pressure warnings, other boats may become damaged. As ice pressure eases prior to the ice moving away from the coast, some of these boats may be found in a sinking condition, while others may be unable to maneuvre away from danger. If this happens to more than a few, the Coast Guard may have too many emergencies to handle in a short time.

Supplies and Fuel: Currently there is some relief with food supplies transported via helicopter to those shortest on supplies. But many of the boats have been out there for over twelve days, and many may have to wait until late this week before making it home. Fuel is also running low, and those boats that run out will either need to be towed or to get more fuel from other vessels. Finally, whether they’re in the ice or not, if they’re out of fuel they can’t move to avoid future threats.

Home ports: Historically, and to an extent currently, most Newfoundland sealers come from Trinity Bay, Bonavista Bay, much of the Northeast Coast, and Southern Labrador. The ports least likely to open up to shipping in the near future are those on the eastern side of the Northeast Coast and Fogo Island, particularly those harbours facing west to north. This is also were Coast Guard efforts are currently centred. There may also be problems on the eastern sides of Bonavista and Trinity Bays, but the western sides should open up earlier. The strait of Belle Isle is also tricky, but the South Labrador coast will have ice blown offshore for much of the week.

Penetrating the ice: Currently the ice is blocking most ports from Trinity Bay to Labrador. Even if the ice starts moving northeast or east, it may stay as a single almost solid field for a while; the longliners will only be able to get through to the coast on their own if large and hopefully safe leads open up. It is more likely that small groups will follow icebreakers through the ice. I think there are three breakers from the Newfoundland fleet and one from the Quebec fleet. I would guess that each would need to take multiple round trips. However, currently the forecast guidance indicates that through next weekend the field will become more and more disorganised. The worst difficulties will probably be on eastern sections of the Northeast Coast, the Strait of Belle Isle due to the narrow channel, and possibly Southern Labrador due to greater ice thickness.


I’m very impressed by the efforts of the Coast Guard, the level of common sense I’ve heard from some of the skippers, and the willingness of some crews and skippers to let boats and people to be rescued in the face of great personal and financial losses. Currently I’ve heard of about 52 people being rescued, and of at least 5 vessels being abandoned in order to keep the crews out of danger. Also, so far no one has been put into a life or death situation.

Given the good chance to break up the pack ice this week, we may come out of this with no fatalities, and with a minimum of boats destroyed. The question of why this happened and how we prevent it in the future should be the first and paramount concern of both the provincial and federal governments before next spring.

But first, let’s get them home.

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