103 years later, Amundsen returns

In 1906, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, and six other crew members, completed the first transit of the arctic’s Northwest Passage in a 47 ton sealing boat. 103 years later, the CCGS Amundsen will depart Quebec City’s Coast Guard base, on its latest scientific mission to the polar region. The “medium icebreaker“, is hoped, will be one of a handful of ships to circumnavigate the North American continent. The ship has just come out of dry dock, been fueled up, grubed up, a fresh crew signed on; now all that is left is to let got all lines and set the engines to full ahead.

The ships is to depart from the Canadian Coast Guard base in Quebec City, on June 4th, bound for the Panama Canal. They are expected to reach Victoria, BC, in early July, where a short break will allow the scientific crew and their equipment to board. By mid July, scientific work will begin in the Western Arctic. The Amundsen will make its way through the Northwest Passage, west to east, meandering the polar region, visiting scientific stations and gathering various regional and oceanographic data, ending back in Quebec City, in early December.

Although its primary function is scientific, I am sure the government is not at all bothered that the ship will be flying the Canadian flag nice and high in the arctic. Just a few years ago the Amundsen broke free from the frozen clutches of the bean counters, thanks to a major commitment from the scientific community.

In 2000, the Canadian Coast Guard mothballed the Sir John Franklin, the Amundsen’s previous name. Three years later, it was rebuilt at Quebec’s Les Mechin ship yard in 2003, for, and largely funded by the scientific community under the Canada Foundation for Innovation banner. The foundation entered an operational agreement that saw the ship’s management carried on by the Canadian Coast Guard but, with a new name.

The 5,911 gross ton ship of roughly three hundred feet long, was originally built in Vancouver, at the Burrard Dry Docks in 1979, and is a Type 1200 in Coast Guard Speak. The engine room features six Bombardier built V16 Alco 251 engines, developing 10,142 kW of propulsive power through a twin shaft, AC/DC propulsion system. A crew of 38 operates the ship on rotation.

The Amundsen, in November 2008, completed a 15 month deployment in the Arctic, part of the International Polar Year scientific odyssey. You can view a blog of part of the trip here. This trip, I am sure will be “easy” for the seasoned vessel and its crew.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. "Just a few years ago the Amundsen broke free from the frozen clutches of the bean counters, thanks to a major commitment from the scientific community."

    Umm not to put too fine a point on it but it's just gov't money by another route.

  2. Yes I do realize that, but departments in government being the territorial beast that they are, may as well be separate entities.
    Of course I also understand the politics of it all and the "sexiness" of funding announcements and the political motivations for them, that why I asked myself the same question as you did, but having worked in the Coast Guard, I believe the bean counters ran (and I think still run) the place.

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