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Dispatch 2: Refueling Before Departure

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Peter Lourie

September 21, 2016

This afternoon 19 more scientists were ferried over from Kugluktuk after coming in on a flight from Yellowknife. I went aft to ask Chief Mate Trevor Hodgson if I could stand somewhere out of the way to make a video of today’s scientists landing on the boat. The shiny new red machine with the Canadian flag touched down like a feather on the red deck.

Already after only a day, I feel I’ve entered another world, blessedly far from the election madness in the States, here safely aboard the CCGS Louis S. St.-Laurent, Canada’s oldest and most illustrious icebreaker, about to travel west and north into the Beaufort Sea looking for ice to deploy buoys.  Strange for an icebreaker to head north desperately looking for ice, but this year the ice has melted back farther north than in previous years.  And the buoys have to be launched in ice that will last at least a year so they can send as much information for as long as they can.

Lead scientist Bill Williams wrote to us:

The ice is now growing again but you may head quite a long way north to find ice for buoy deployment. There is a lot of open water this year. See the attached sea-ice map, or take a look at for the latest or to compare this year with recent years. It looks like the September minimum sea ice extent (area with > 15% sea ice) will end up being between the two record minima of 2007 and 2012 (see The Louis will need to steam a fair way north and east to find ice for buoy deployments.

We leave tomorrow at noon after the refueling is completed. From early dawn until night a big tanker alongside the Louis has been topping us off with 1.4 million liters.  With a full tank this ship will go 30,000 miles without refueling. When I went out to film the tanker after breakfast, the sky was still dark and a Newfoundlander on the tanker told me he and his father used to fish for cod, but the depleted cod industry closed down so it could have time to regenerate, and he’d tried crabbing for awhile, then retrained to do his present job.  There were only 12 crew aboard the big tanker, he said, not nearly as populated as the Louis with its total of 82.  He had been out for 37 days refueling ships throughout the Arctic.  He listed them and hoped to be heading home soon.  Like so many of our crew who are from Newfoundland, too, the accent was strong and particular to the town he’s from.  As Captain Duffett put it, “Each bay has its own accent.”  This one seemed part Irish, part Cornish, part what exactly I do not know but it’s a lovely twang, a little bit like native Vermont, and yet as distinct as anything I’ve heard anywhere.

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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