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As everyone in Atlantic Canada knows, this has been an unusual fall. It was fairly innocuous and pleasant until Post-tropical Storm Noel hit in November, immediately followed by a mix of rain and snow (I wish it had been a bit less post and a bit more tropical). Then winter hit a “little” early, with frequent flurries and temperatures that rarely made it above -5 C. Then we got this week’s weather. Things started warming up until today it broke plus 10 in places, a fair amount of rain fell, then it cleared up this afternoon and was amazingly sunny, with brisk (to a Newfoundlander) winds and temperatures staying above zero.

The nice thing for me was that the storm gave half decent waves along the Atlantic coast, so I rushed to Peggy’s Cove after work. Except for the wind blowing sea spray directly onto my lens when shooting straight at the waves, it was perfect. I finished around 4:40 pm, then drove back to town. Things had become strangely calm, with very little traffic, almost nothing open (except video stores and movie theatres, of course). The sense of calmness and serenity was wonderful.

I went home, downloaded some of the images from the Cove, and present them as one view of an Atlantic Canadian Christmas. Happy and peaceful holidays, and may your New Year’s resolutions be little ones.

Looking Out the Entrance

Looking Out the Entrance
The Gulls were really active, since the waves had stirred up the ocean.

In the Cove

In the Cove
Bad waves almost never make it into the Cove. Today there were 4-5 metre waves outside the cove and pounding on the entrance.

Crash

Crash
Tip: Don’t shoot directly into the wind, unless you like spray on your lens…I wanted this shot so much I tried it anyway.

Broken rock

Boroken rock
The large flat rock near the centre was broken off the ledge in the foreground. I estimate that it weighs on the order of 120 metric tonnes.

Boom

Boom

Smash

Smash
Best Viewed Large. Note the chunk gouged out of the rock in the foreground. This comes from Noel in November. There was a lot of damage in the Cove.

Sunset

Sunset
Along the Coast

Along the Coast
The entrance to the Cove is just beyond the little red shack. This coast is full of rock ledges and often has a lot of wave activity.

 The Evening Light

The Evening Light
I know it is cliche, but the light was very nice.

Again, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and Happy Quanza, Hannukah, and Chinese New Year (coming soon). Given the recent weather, I’m just as happy with a warm and dry Christmas.

a quickr pickr post

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I had been working hard all day, and as I left the office we were getting thunderstorms just east of the city. I was hoping they would continue in that direction, as I had no rain gear. There’s one thing about Halifax; if you’re a pedestrian, you see some strange and interesting sights. This is partly because it is a university town, combined with a naval base, combined with a fishing village, and combined with a mix of Scots, English, Acadians, and African Americans, who had all emigrated to Nova Scotia hundreds of years ago. Also, port cities are inherently interesting because of those who visit.

This day there was an American carrier visiting called the Wasp (after the famous World War II ship), and it was also the night of a high school prom. The first thing I noticed on my way home was a nice old Ford (from the 1910’s) with dear old dad (from the 1950’s) driving the kids (born in the late 1980’s), who were appropriately dressed for the gay 90’s (1890’s) in this year of Our Lord 2007.

Then I saw a sign in front of a stylish and brash clothing store catering to the university crowd.

Eye-catching
The store, called the Peepshow, always has unique and flirty advertisements. You should see some of their mannequins.

Then I boarded the ferry to cross the harbour, and I had a nice view of the Wasp from a distance.

Silva Wasp
The “Tall Ship” Silva passed near the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship. The Wasp was in town doing joint security exercises with Canada, and is extremely versatile. For example, it can provide medical care for up to 600 people, can handle flight operations for many aircraft, and can land or load massive amounts of people or equipment almost anywhere.

I've got an idea
Then I saw the small tour boat/bus called the Harbour Hopper (the green boat just to the right of the carrier) much nearer the ship. Then a light-bulb flashed in my head, and when I stopped blinking I went to get a ticket for the Hopper.

Ribbit
The Harbour Hopper is a LARC-V from the Vietnam era converted into a tour bus/boat. It was originally designed to carry up to 5 tons of cargo, and can navigate through 3 metre waves when landing or going into the water. It’s also quite annoying for residents of Halifax, with the tour guide blaring cute anecdotes about the city and history of same, and with the passengers waving to all and sundry. Normally I wouldn’t go near the monstrosity, but I wanted to get close to that ship!

Screwy wheels
Here is what we depended on for locomotion in the aqueous realm. The screw is linked to the wheel drive-shaft, and both turn at the same time, even in the water. The LARC can putter along at about 16 km/h in the water.

Last one in is a rotten egg
After a quick tour of the town and Citadel Hill (I actually learned a few interesting things, and it was late enough and gloomy enough from the looming storm so that we weren’t bothered much by waving) we headed for the ramp leading into the water. Having seen these boats zoom straight into the water, I knew how high a splash they could raise. I had to get a shot of the splash. However, we were all forced to say “Ribbit” very loudly as we went into the harbour. It was very traumatising, and not very complimentary to Kermit, who I have always respected.

Right of Way
We started heading up the harbour towards the carrier USS Wasp. Like on regular streets, you keep to the right. We were scrupulous about observing the rules of the road, as were other boats when they stopped staring at us. The LARC rode the water very well, and had little trouble with the waves from other ships and boats.

Bare Sticks
There were a number of tall ships in the harbour recently. These are the masts of two ships from Brest. In the old days the harbour would look like a denuded winter forest.

Guest from Brest
This is one of two ships visiting from Brest. She looks more like a vessel designed for an inland sea like the Baltic than an ocean-going vessel.

Size matters
Two lookouts and a US Coast Guard helicopter on the flight deck, after a hard day’s work. They really helped me to appreciate the true scale of the ship. If one of them had fallen overboard, just hitting the water wrong would either have seriously injured or killed the person falling.

Perspective
The USS Wasp is about 840 feet long and the flight deck is about 100 feet wide. Plenty of room for four US Football games, or 3.5 Canadian games.

Look up, look way up.

From a distance
Except for the American nuclear carriers, the Wasp is one of the largest vessels in the American Navy.

Sundown on Thunderclouds
There were some storms east of town, but luckily not a drop fell in town, and I had an uneventful walk the rest of the way home.

If you try hard enough, you can always keep from being bored.

a quickr pickr post

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As of 8 am Friday morning the last three long-liners have been escorted out of the ice field off the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland. During this three week operation the Coast Guard seems to have done an exemplary job, and many thanks are due.

Here is what they have accomplished in that time:

  • 80 boats were escorted out of the ice out of 100
  •  1 boat was lost on the first day or two that the ice closed up and the fleet was trapped
  • 31 long-liners were evacuated and 72 non-essential personnel were evacuated by Coast Guard helicopters
  • 8 were provided with fuel
  • 27 were provided with provisions (they had to pay for the groceries, but not for delivery)!
  • some commercial carriers were escorted
  • 2-3 ferry routes were kept open at least intermittently
  • no one died
  • I didn’t hear about any major injuries

As of this morning the Grenfell was in the strait of Belle Isle, the Larsen and the Pearkes were near New World Island, and the Ann Harvey was east of Cape Freels. The Terry Fox was north of Cape Freels. At least some of these will be heading home soon, but they may have to keep ferry routes open.

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In the great age of polar exploration, the major players included the British, the Americans, and the Norwegians. It was also an extremely nationalistic time. To get to the high Arctic or to the Antarctic, they needed ships capable of penetrating the ice, and sailors with a proven ability to face danger on the ice. For the Americans and the British it was strongly preferred to have English speaking sailors, preferably British or North American.

The nineteenth century ships most capable in high latitudes were arctic whaler and sealing vessels. These were wooden vessels, with thick hulls and heavily reinforced and sharp bows. Towards the latter half of the century they started installing steam engines and propellers into these vessels, thus creating vessels capable of penetrating and navigating significant pack ice. However, it must be remembered that these engines were less powerful than the average compact car (the Terra Nova‘s engine was less powerful than the engine of a Volkswagon Jetta).

One of the largest fleets of these vessels were the “wooden walls” used in the Newfoundland seal hunt. Since the 1700’s the local fisherman hunted the seals on the arctic pack that engulfed the Northeast Coast of the island in small boats, in schooners, and from the shore. When the wooden walls came into service they easily transferred their skills and experience on board, and eventually Newfoundland acquired a fleet of large ice-capable vessels with crews and captains with decades of experience in navigating through arctic pack and icebergs. It was a natural resource for the explorers of the time, who were often inexperienced and unfamiliar with the vagaries and dangers of the ice, ocean, and weather of the polar seas.

After hunting around a little, I found that Newfoundland ships and crews, and in particular one Ice Captain, contributed significantly to some of the most important and famous expeditions in the history of polar exploration. In fact, they were mainly involved with the attempts to get to the North and South Poles, the Holy Grails of exploration at the time. Here are some of the stories of how our ships and men assisted in the Great Adventure of those times.

THE SHIPS

Southern Cross:

This ship transported the first expedition to winter over on the Antarctic continent. In the process it also penetrated the Great Ice Barrier and entered the unexplored Ross Sea. It then went to the Newfoundland seal hunt for fourteen years, crewed and commanded by local sailors. Finally it disappeared in a storm on the way home from the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in 1914. 173 souls perished, making it the greatest sealing disaster in Newfoundland history.

Terra Nova:

This is one of the most famous of the Newfoundland wooden walls. She was a sealing vessel for most of her career (1884-1943), but she gained world renown as the expedition ship for Robert Scott’s tragic and unsuccessful attempt to beat Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. Her silhouette is the trademark of the Bowring Company, who owned her for much of her life, and there is also a mountain named after her on Ross Island not far from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. There is also a Terra Nova Glacier and a Terra Nova Bay in the same area.

Aurora:

This ship was involved in three expeditions. The first was a discover and rescue mission for the Greely Expedition in 1884. The second was the Australasian Antarctic Expedition under Douglas Mawson, and the third was as one of the two ships involved in Shackleton’s attempt to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. This third expedition was famous for the loss of the Endurance, and Shackleton’s subsequent boat voyage to South Georgia island across about 600 miles of polar ocean. He was particularly famous for keeping so many of his people alive, which was rather uncommon in those days.

Nimrod:

She was used as the expedition ship for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s second attempt to reach the South Pole, and his first as expedition leader.

Eagle and Trepassey:

  • Between 1944-1947 they were charted by the British Admiralty and sent to the Antarctic. Details are in SS Eagle: The Secret Mission by H. Squires.

THE MAN
Captain Robert Abram (“Bob”) Bartlett:

Captain Bob was born in Brigus in 1875 to a family of ice navigators and captains. By the time he was an adult he had significant experience with the seal hunt and on trading ships. He is primarily famous for three events in his life. He worked with Commodore Peary both as the captain of Peary’s ship Roosevelt, and as part of the group that trekked over the ice to the North Pole. He had to turn back on the final leg due to a disagreement with Peary, but otherwise they worked well together and he was instrumental in getting the Roosevelt close enough to the pole to allow for the overland trek. He also was able to get the ship further North than any previous ship.

He was also skipper of the Karluk during the ill-fated Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-18. The ship was trapped in the ice northwest of Alaska and drifted north of Siberia before being crushed in the ice. Bartlett prepared the crew for the destruction of the ship and helped them to head south to Siberia. Then he and an Inuit companion headed east to the Bering Sea and managed to organise a rescue ship. In the end he managed to recover more than half of the crew stranded on the ice.

His third endeavor was less spectacular but probably more important than any of his previous work. He acquired a Grand Banks schooner called the Effie N. Morrissey, refitted her for Arctic work, and for the next couple of decades sailed her north every year with scientists, explorers, and the sons of influential and powerful American friends that he had made due to his earlier exploits. This produced much good research, and also a generation of influential and generous people with an interest in science, exploration, and the Arctic.

Bartlett was considered the best ice captain of his generation. There is one story that still sticks in my mind. At one time he was on a ship anchored in a narrow channel in the Canadian Archipelago. Unbeknownst to them, there was a strong intermittent tidal current in this channel; there was also a large clump of bergy bits, small icebergs, and the occasional large one near one end of the channel. Bartlett was roused by the night watch in a panic; the current had started and the ice was coming through the channel straight towards the ship. Bartlett ran to the ships wheel and signalled the engine room to fire up the boilers and get the engine running. However he knew they would be into the ice before that.

He ordered that the anchor chain be let out further; the crew momentarily looked at him as if he were stunned. They expected that he would want the anchor chain and anchor to be pulled up so they would drift with the current. But Bartlett knew they would be drifting helplessly until the engine could be started, and that there wasn’t enough time anyway. They quickly recovered and followed his orders, and then realised what he was doing. The current moving past the stationary ship would give the boat steerage way. With a longer distance between the anchor and the ship, by turning the wheel left and right he could make the ship quickly glide left and right a significant distance. He then proceeded to do just that, dodging massive chunks of ice with almost inhuman virtuosity as the boat drifted left and right across the channel. After a while most of the ice was safely past the ship, and they finally had a head of steam for the engine. He quickly pulled in the anchor and quietly sailed the ship out of the channel, found a safer place to anchor, and went back to bed.

  • Coast Guard Biography
  • Peary-MacMillan Collection Biography
  • Arctic Profiles brief Biography
  • The Roosevelt, commanded by Captain Bob Bartlett for Commander Peary during Peary’s attempt to reach the North Pole
  • New York times article on Peary’s “attainment” of the North Pole, and the controversy regarding Dr. Frederick Cook’s prior claim to having reached the Pole.
  • The Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1918, where the Karluk was destroyed and Bartlett saved more than half of the survivors.
  • Timeline of Bartlett’s arctic schooner, the Effie N. Morrissey which he used for arctic exploration and scientific research for about twenty years, and in the meantime popularised exploration and the north to the United States in particular, and to the world in general
  • Whatever Happened to the Effie N. Morrissey?
  • History, characteristics, and research voyages of the Morrissey.

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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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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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