CCGS Amundsen

Tomorrow the International Polar Year 2012 conference is starting in Montreal, but today, the CCGS Amundsen icebreaker, docked at the King Edward Quay in the Old Port, was opened to the media.

The icebreaker was built in 1979 and commissioned as the CCGS Sir John Franklin. In 2003, she was refitted for scientific purposes and named in honour of Arctic Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who, in 1903, led the first expedition to successfully traverse Canada’s Northwest Passage.

CCGS Amundsen was in the news at the beginning of the year when it was announced that she had suffered engine failure, loosing 2  out of her 6 engines, consequently leading to ArcticNet’s 2012 summer expedition’s cancelation. Talking to Martin Fortier, ArcticNet’s executive director, on the deck of the icebreaker, he assured me that in fact, the unfortunate event had turned out to be more of a blessing in disguise than anything else. Allowing the crew to catch up on much needed work and make the point on all the data so far collected. Now that the funds have been secured to repair and upgrade, they are looking to be back on the field in 2013, stronger than ever!

For our official tour, led by the captain and Fortier, we were first shown some of the onboard science labs (the ship has more than 15 of them), where studies on plankton, water analysis, and much more are conducted. After visiting the bridge, with state of the art mapping system and incredible GPS stationary system, which allows the ship to stay stationary, to the meter, independently of the wind and current, we were taken to one of the icebreaker’s most unique features – an inside access to the water, that open directly underneath the vessel, perfect to launch the ROV and Rosette even in the coldest freezing and icy conditions. Independently if Amundsen is surrounded, or even stuck in 2-meter thick ice, the crew always has access to the water. Last winter, on their last assignment, they discovered they were not the only ones enjoying this neat “James Bond” exit – a group of ring seals started to use this mini indoor pool as their personal sauna, spending hours basking in the warmth of the boat, while the crew tended to more “professional” activities!

Starting Sunday 9am and until Wednesday 19h30, CCGS Amundsen will be open to the public. Go mingle with the crew and Fortier’s team and let them share with you what it is like to live and work the Canadian Arctic!

If you want to keep a souvenir, find your way to the nearest bank machine, or bank, and withdraw a 50 dollar canadian note, and there, on the front is the icebreaker itself in its full glory!

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