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Dispatch 19: Interviewing Crew & More on Icebreakers

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Peter Lourie

October 9, 2016

In the past two days I’ve had the opportunity to interview on video camera, Chief Officer Trevor Hodgson, Medical Officer Amelie Francoeur, and Chief Cook Blair Walsh.  Much thanks to them for taking the time out of some very busy days. 

Chief Mate

As Chief Officer, Trevor is responsible for overseeing the deck operations, including all the deck hands and the bosun, as well as guiding the mates on the bridge in the ways of the Louis.  The mates give specific directions, but the quartermasters do the actual steering.  Trevor is more of a big picture sort of guy, keeping everyone aware of the overall story of the ship and the program.  Every once in a while he’ll go up to the bridge and have a bit of fun and practice steering the ship.

He also coordinates between the deck department and the science operation.  If science needs a rosette cast he arranges for the winch man to raise and lower the CTD rosette or the bongo nets to be cast off the foredeck.  He’s always on deck during buoy and mooring deployments and recoveries.  “I try to help everything run smoothly throughout the ship,” he says.

Trevor has done this trip before as Mate.  His experience on icebreakers in the Arctic began when he was a cadet at the Coast Guard College in 2003 and 2004.  He left Quebec on the CCGS Pierre Radisson out of Quebec City and headed north to Iqaluit.  “It was the first time I saw icebergs and all that fun stuff coming down the coast.  A different world altogether.”

As soon as he graduated, Trevor loaded up his car and drove straight to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where there were many possible jobs aboard the many Coast Guard ships stationed there.  He ended up on the Terry Fox as first mate resupplying Inuit communities bringing cargo at times of the year when other ships weren’t able to operate.

Then he was on the Henry Larsen in the high arctic.  And ended up on the Louis in 2012 when he helped with a previous JOIS science trip.  Also aboard the Louis, he escorted the first commercial transit (scrap iron from Seattle headed for Europe) through the Northwest Passage from west to east.

Trevor has been to the North Pole two out of the Louis’s four North Pole treks.  Along with the USCGC Polar Sea, the Louis made history in 1994 when the two ships were the first surface ships to reach the pole. Trevor was on the Louis’ second trip to the pole in 2014 when at one point the ice ridges were 20 to 30 feet high and he wondered just how he’d gotten there.  After that, the Louis found easier routes, but those massive ridges impressed Trevor.

Trevor was also on the Louis’ third North Pole journey in 2015.  He didn’t go this year with the crew we replaced when the ship reached Kugluktuk.

“The excitement about the Arctic is that it’s still vastly unknown to most of Canada.”  Most of Canada’s population lives in the south and a lot of people don’t give much thought to what’s up north.”  Trevor says, “It’s good to come up here and see what no one else is looking at, like the big icebergs coming down or the big heavy ice floes.” Even though the Arctic is a little light on ice this year, he says, “there’s still lots of ice up here.  And just think of the different kinds of animals we get to see, the polar bears, the narwhals, the walruses, creatures that people often think of as fantasy animals.  You get to see them every year.  And you get to meet and know the different Inuit communities where sometimes we’re the only link to the outside world, other than their regular cargo ships and airplanes.”

Trevor, I’ve noticed, is always in good cheer, no matter how many hours he can be seen on the foredeck in the whipping snow overseeing long mooring operations, or on the helicopter pad coordinating flights.  Like so many of the kind and friendly crew aboard the Louis, Trevor’s easy-going nature has made this a warm-hearted trip we will never forget.

More on Icebreakers

Icebreakers are often described as ships that drive their sloping bows onto the ice and break it under the weight of the ship. In reality, this only happens in very thick ice where the icebreaker will proceed at walking pace or may even have to repeatedly back down several ship lengths and ram the ice pack at full power. More commonly the ice, which has a relatively low flexural (bending) strength, is easily broken and submerged under the hull without a noticeable change in the icebreaker's trim while the vessel moves forward at a relatively high and constant speed.

When an icebreaker is designed, one of the main goals is to minimize the forces resulting from crushing and breaking the ice, and submerging the broken floes under the vessel. The average value of the longitudinal components of these instantaneous forces is called the ship's ice resistance. Naval architects who design icebreakers use the so-called h-v-curve to determine the icebreaking capability of the vessel. It shows the speed (v) that the ship is able to achieve as a function of ice thickness (h). This is done by calculating the velocity at which the thrust from the propellers equals the combined hydrodynamic and ice resistance of the vessel. An alternative means to determine the icebreaking capability of a vessel in different ice conditions such as pressure ridges is to perform model tests in an ice tank. Regardless of the method, the actual performance of new icebreakers is verified in full-scale ice trials once the ship has been built.

In order to minimize the icebreaking forces, the hull lines of an icebreaker are usually designed so that the flare at the waterline is as small as possible. As a result, icebreaking ships are characterized by a sloping or rounded stem as well as sloping sides and a short parallel midship to improve maneuverability in ice. However, the spoon-shaped bow and round hull have poor hydrodynamic efficiency and sea-keeping characteristics, and make the icebreaker susceptible to slamming. For this reason, the hull of an icebreaker is often a compromise between minimum ice resistance, maneuverability in ice, low hydrodynamic resistance, and adequate open water characteristics. (from Wiki)

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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