Alder breaks ice & sweeps & shovels it too

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All hands on deck aboard the Alder on December 14, 2016, breaking ice on their deck as they moved across Lake Superior. All of this while US Coast Guard Sector Soo began Operation Taconite, their annual push to clear shipping channels of ice so lakers can get another 2 or 3 weeks before the season ends. For now, the Alder was assigned the western end of Lake Superior for their ice breaking operations. That seems logical but in others years, they were breaking ice in Lake Michigan and cutters like the Biscayne Bay came here to break up our ice. All pictures here courtesy of the Alder.
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Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016.
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Alder breaks a path through the ice in the Keweenaw Waterway near Houghton, Michigan on Dec. 16, 2016.

First sign of Spring on Monday

The first sign of spring in Duluth is usually our Coast Guard cutter Alder’s first venture into the Duluth harbor in early March. I go over there to get ‘dramatic’ pictures as she gets the new season started breaking away from the ice that surrounded her since arriving at her dock in late January 2004-12-14-14h27m17after assisting all the vessel traffic to their winter berths. She has always made it out; some years with a little more work than others. This year, she marks the first sign of Spring on Monday, March 7, 2016. Actually, on February 22, she took a quick trip stern first to the middle of the harbor, turned around and backed her way back to her moorings at her dock on Park Point. 240207-2--077February is too early to see a sign of spring. That short trip was taken to position her bow for her eventual appearance as the first sign of spring a week or more away. Her pointed bow, as most bows, is curved to a point (ok, a rounded point) to ease the vessel through the water, and especially ice. Her stern was built to be and look like a stern, never the best face to put forward when breaking into ice.Above, left the Alder bow on December 14, 2004 while at her dock; right her stern just before she was launched in February, 2004.

Click here to see 58 other posts we have made about the Alder

The temperature today (Saturday, March 5, 2016) and tomorrow will be above freezing. That will make that trip on Monday, the 7th not as challenging as other years. The high temperature on Monday will be in the 40’s; she might be able to leave sideways with no trouble.

She will however have important cargo on board: 25 members of LSMMA (Lake Superior Marine Museum Association) will be guests of Commander Tschirgi as he heads out for his first first-sign-of-spring trip since he came on board last July 10th. As if to warn the new Commander about his coming task, Coast Guard dignitaries told the new Commander, his crew and invited guests at the ceremony last July that the last two winters were the toughest in Great Lakes history.

This is Commander Tschirgi’s first tour on the Great Lakes but lest you think he is a rookie, he also served tours in Antarctica and the Arctic. And, it has not been a bad winter, to say the least.

Below is a Coast Guard release from last Friday:

COAST GUARD ICE BREAKING ACTIVITIES

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ALDER will commence spring break out operations in the Duluth-Superior area Monday March 07, 2016. These operations will continue periodically over the next few days and weeks to prepare regional waterways for the start of the Great Lakes commercial navigation season.

Initially, ice breaking operations will occur inside the Duluth and Superior Harbors. The ice breaking work will expand in coming weeks to prepare Two Harbors, MN, Taconite Harbor, MN, Silver Bay, MN, and Thunder Bay, Ontario for commercial ship movements.

Unlike the past two winters, this year was unseasonably warm. Regional ice cover is not as expansive nor did it reach traditional thicknesses. The forecast for the next seven to ten days calls for temperatures conducive to rapid deterioration of ice. All snowmobile, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) operators, ice fishermen, and other recreational users of the ice should recognize the instability of the ice, plan their activities carefully, and use caution near the ice, especially in proximity to charted navigation areas.

Duluth ice through the years

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The Duluth Shipping News has over 5,000 web pages in it and more than 5,000 pictures. Most pages are assigned a category; the list of categories can be seen in the left column. Ice is one of the categories and since there does not seem to be much ice around, I thought I would highlight all the pages through the years about ice. You can click on the category pull down and see all 93 (94 now with this page) pages with lots of ice on them or see the list by clicking here.

Still working at the other end …

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… of the St. Lawrence Seaway system. René Beauchamp took this photo of the Bluebill and Federal Leda on February 15, 2016 while they were anchored off Sorel-Tracy, about 50 miles from Montreal, on the St Lawrence River. Bluebill (left) has waited to go up the river to load grain at Elevator 4 in Montreal since January 23. Federal Leda (right) has a cargo of sugar and will eventually go to section 46  to unload. Her fleetmate Federal Sutton is there now. The Seaway is closed now, but will reopen on March 23. Thank you René for sharing the pictures and information with us at this end.

Whitefish Bay ice stops shipping on Lake Superior

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Check out this slideshow from Reuters

Great Lakes Ice Coverage slipping away

from Petoskeynews.com (Petoskey is a town on the north east shore of Lake Michigan)

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2015 1:19 pm

Mark Johnson (989) 732-1111mjohnson@gaylordheraldtimes.com

NORTHERN MICHIGAN — It appears spring is finally here and with the end to another brutal winter comes the end of another year of extensive Great Lakes ice coverage.

According to George Leshkevich, physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, total Great Lakes ice coverage peaked Feb. 28 at approximately 88.7 percent combined among the five lakes.

Though some of the lakes — Erie, Huron and Superior — approached almost complete ice cover, the total of 88.7 percent fell short of the ice coverage mark set last year on March 6, and approximately 6 percent short of the record set in 1979 at 94.7 percent.

“The way things are going now, we are looking at an earlier breakup and an earlier ice-off date (compared to 2014),” Leshkevich said. “Last year was extreme.”

According to statistics compiled by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, out of all of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie reached the highest ice coverage percent at 98.09 percent on Feb. 18.

Lake Ontario also experienced its peak ice coverage Feb. 18, when 82.6 percent of the lake was covered in ice.

Coming in at No. 2 for highest total ice coverage was Lake Huron, recording an ice coverage of 96.28 percent on March 6.

Lakes Superior and Michigan both reached their maximum ice coverage Feb. 28, with Lake Michigan recording 72.8 percent ice coverage and Lake Superior 95.5 percent.

Since reaching those numbers, warmer temperatures and larger amounts of sunlight among other factors have began to break up the large quantities of ice.

“It is going down now,” Leshkevich said in regard to the melting ice. “Even if we get another cold snap, it would have to be really cold for really long to turn things around.”

Leshkevich said the ice coverage patterns this year are about normal, as the lower Great Lakes — Erie and Ontario — typically reach maximum ice coverage between the middle and end of February, while the upper Great Lakes — Michigan, Superior and Huron — usually reach peak ice coverage sometime during the first half of March.

Unless there is another cold spell, the ice cover should continue to melt as spring approaches, unlike 2014 when Leshkevich said some amount of ice cover remained on Lake Superior until June 6.

But with the unpredictable Michigan weather patterns, Leshkevich said anything is possible.

“Things could still turn around,” he said. “Cold weather could prolong (the ice cover).”

Follow @Mark_JohnsonGHT on Twitter.

Last trip for the Tregurtha this year

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Sometimes in the winter, the hardest thing for a boat to do is make a dock; even if the course thru the ice is not much of a problem. A 1,000 footer weighs a lot and can brush aside a lot of loose ice as it goes thru the harbor. Moving all 1,013 feet up against a dock is another story. Loose ice, easy to go thru in open water, compresses as the vessel moves closer to the dock; a tug is often needed to not only break up the ice but also flush the ice away from the dock, leaving room for the boat to move up against the dock and tie up. If the ice is not cleared, the vessel does not make the dock. Here, after coming under the Lift Bridge and moving up the harbor, the Paul R. Tregurtha points her bow to the dock, allowing a deck hand to drop down to the dock to secure the bow. The rest of the boat slowly closes toward the dock, carefully, and often with the help of a tug, pushing the loose ice out of the way. You can see the tug at the far right, moving out of the way after breaking up the ice. That was at 1 pm on Sunday, January 11, 2015. After taking on fuel at Calumet, she then moved over to Midwest Energy to load her last cargo of coal of the season. She left at 4:56 the next morning with 66,000 tons of coal for Detroit Edison. Another trip here was planned but has apparently been canceled, making this her last and 41st visit this season. Last year, without a late start due to ice, the Tregurtha was here 49 times.
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