Rapid deterioration of ice

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On March 13, the US Coast Guard sent out the following information (see below) regarding the Coast Guard cutter Alder (above) and her upcoming ice breaking activity. It contains the following description of the current situation: “temperatures conducive to rapid deterioration of ice.” I took these 3 pictures today (March 15, 2017). The Alder is sitting at the Coast Guard station on Park Point. Below is the Duluth harbor. In the last couple of weeks, it has seen high winds coming from both the east and west. There are 3 outlets for the water and ice to move. In or out of the Duluth ship canal, below; in or out of the Superior Entry, just below, in the upper left and the St. Louis River, the mouth of it seen at the top right. The ice has been moving in and out and around but certainly not increasing in over all size. Daylight like today, much longer than the days in December, insures the ice is in a loosing battle with Mother Nature. That is mostly because the ice missed its usual opportunity to dig in so it would be hard to kick out; the cold temperatures of January and February. They were not there, leaving the ice without is armor. We are still 16 days before April 1, the date the Indiana Harbor tried to depart using the Duluth ship canal on that day in 2003. She tried 9 times to break thru the ice but finally had to give up the fight and wait, presumably for Coast Guard support. But several days later, they quit trying; there was only one thing left to do; wait for Mother Nature to do her work. Which of course she did. But until she did, no traffic departed or arrived using the Duluth ship canal for 20 days, when the Walter J. McCarthy finally made it out on April 21st. Read all about it here.
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View of Duluth harbor, half filled with ice

At the moment, the Paul R. Tregurtha will be the first scheduled traffic to move this season when she departs her winter berth at Midwest Energy Resources on March 22. Check our schedule at DuluthBoats.com

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Looking through the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge to Lake Superior

March 13, 2017: United States Coast Guard: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ALDER will commence spring break out operations in the Duluth-Superior area Thursday March 16, 2017. 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 the following days to prepare Two Harbors, MN, Taconite Harbor, MN, Silver Bay, MN, and Thunder Bay, Ontario for commercial ship movements.
Unlike some previous 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.

 
 

Alder in and out

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2017-0126-1076I took the picture above and to the right this morning, January 26, 2017. I was curious why the Alder was going out since the season was over since the Lee A. Tregurtha came under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge on January 16. I do not remember the Alder ever moving after the end of the season, much less 10 days after. Shortly after I took the picture, she turned around and returned to her dock at Coast Guard Station Duluth. We are having a very mild winter. That is open water on the bottom of the picture, even if it looks gray. I think she made that short trip to reposition herself at the dock for her first trip out in the ice in early March. She will break up the ice in preparation for the new season. By then, it might be a very cold winter. Since she breaks ice, she is the first ship to move in the new season, often around March 8. That means she needs to break her own ice that has formed since January around the vessel before she can help other vessels.
2008Jan21_4130PRODJanuary, 2008 was a very cold winter. I took the picture of the Mesabi Miner (right) arriving Duluth on January 21, 2008. She was the last traffic for that season. I went back to the South Pier Inn to warm up when the night nurse there told me there was a ship outside the window that was not moving. I politely suggested that he was wrong since I  just took a picture of her going under the Lift Bridge. I looked anyway. Sure enough, she was sitting in the ice, not moving (below). This was big news; Duluth was about to wake up and see a 1,000 footer stopped in the ice just behind the DECC.
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The Alder was planning to leave her dock about this time so she would be out to open up the channel for the Miner and wait to make sure she had no problems. This was a problem! I had been invited to go out with the Alder but had decided to stay warm in my office. I immediately drove down to Coast Guard Duluth and boarded the Alder just as they were ready to leave the dock. They were monitoring the Miner’s problem. Captain Marty Lightner was ready to get his tug Kentucky away from her dock to help the Miner get to her winter layup dock at Midwest Energy. He reported trouble getting away because of ice. The Alder fired up her engines and found she could not break out of the ice that had formed around her hull. Three boats were stuck in the ice. Two of them were ice breakers that were supposed to help the other boats. After a few minutes trying to get away, the Alder decided to fire up her buoy crane so she could move it back and forth from one side of the boat to the other.
2008Jan21_4145In the top right portion of the picture below, you can see the crane was moved over the ice on one side of the ship. It was then moved to the other side as they tried to rock the boat out of the ice. It worked. As we moved out, Lightner reported he was also under way and was close by the Miner, helping her to break away. That worked too. Three vessels got stuck and unstuck before they created a scene to show the populace of Duluth as they were getting up for work.
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We have it pretty good this year (so far).

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.

2 Coast Guard cutters, the Cason J. Callaway and Pier B

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(The retired Coast Guard cutter Sundew sits at her current dock just to the right of the former cement silos; the Coast Guard cutter Alder is back at her dock after a quick trip out to Lake Superior this morning, top center.)

Alder Opens 2016 season

Join the Alder and 25 members of LSMMA as they open the 2016 shipping season in Duluth Minnesota

Alone for now, but not for long

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Our Coast Guard cutter Alder made a quick trip into the harbor this morning (February 22, 2016) to reposition the ship, bow pointing out, for her first ice breaking session this season, sometime in early March. In the pictures here, she is slowly backing into her mooring.
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Alder getting port ready to close down

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The Alder was out this morning (Wednesday, January 13, 2016), preparing a path for the last vessel traffic of the season. (see picture of harbor and the tracks the Alder laid  down at the bottom of this page)
Information from the Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Duluth-Superior shipping season winds to a close;
7 lakers to be in Port for winter layup
Duluth, Minn., U.S.A. (1/12/16) – The Port of Duluth-Superior is welcoming seven ships for winter layup this year. In fact, the Indiana Harbor laid up early (on Nov. 3) and a major repowering project is already underway at Fraser Shipyards on the Herbert C. Jackson, in dry dock since early December.
The Soo Locks (at Sault Ste. Marie) are set to close at midnight on Friday, Jan. 15. By then, four more wintering vessels are expected to have arrived in the Twin Ports beginning Thursday morning with the anticipated arrival of the Edwin H. Gott, followed Friday or later by the American Century, the Kaye E. Barker and the Philip R. Clarke. We say “expected” to arrive as transit times vary with wind and weather.
Boatwatchers will have to wait just a little longer for the arrival of the very last laker – the Paul R. Tregurtha – as the thousand-footer is making one or two late season, intra-lake deliveries of iron ore. Her arrival beneath the Aerial Bridge next week will officially mark the end of the 2015 Great Lakes shipping season here in the Twin Ports.  [Note: Last ‘saltie’ of the season, Federal Bering, departed Duluth on Dec. 18; the St. Lawrence Seaway closed on Dec. 31.]
In all, seven (7) Great Lakes freighters will be wintering in the Twin Ports this year:
Vessel Location ARRIVAL
Indiana Harbor Enbridge Dock 11/03/15
Herbert C. Jackson Fraser Shipyards 12/11/15
Kaye E. Barker Fraser Shipyards
Edwin H. Gott Port Terminal Berth 1
Philip R. Clarke Port Terminal Berth 4
American Century Port Terminal Berth 6/7
Paul R. Tregurtha Midwest Energy Resources Co.

While ships’ crews will take the next few, well-deserved weeks off, there is no real ‘down time’ on the waterfront. Hundreds of workers – engineers, welders, pipefitters, mechanics, electricians and others –will spend the next eight weeks doing heavy-duty maintenance and repair work so these vessels are ready to sail when the Soo Locks reopen on March 25 and the 2016 Great Lakes-Seaway shipping season gets underway.
The Jackson’s conversion is part of $110 million that U.S. vessel operators will spend on maintaining/modernizing ships during this offseason, according to Lake Carriers’ Association. Repairs and maintenance work will constitute $60 million of that total while the rest will be taken up by special project work, such as repowering or installing exhaust scrubbers.

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