Thursday, December 29, 2005

Breaking the Ice

The Germans are planning to donate the use of one of their icebreakers during the International Polar Year's two years of field work. At $100,000 a day, that's a sizeable donation to the cause of international scientific study of the polar regions. The German icebreakers have played an integral role in the Census for Marine Life which has been studying the diversity of marine organisms around the world. Meanwhile, the outdated US icebreaker fleet stuggles to meet their existing obligations, contracting with Russian icebreakers to resupply some stations that they are unable to reach.

According to a CSM article entitled "Icebreakers On Thin Ice":
the US's fleet of three heavy icebreakers is sailing along at half steam. The US has one modern vessel, the Healy, which began operating in 2000 and typically remains in the Arctic. The other two - the Polar Star and the Polar Sea - were built in the 1970s and are nearing the end of their design lives.
Long under the control of the US Coast Guard, the article notes the White House recently "wrested control of the ice-breaker fleet from the Coast Guard and handed it to the NSF" since part of the duty of the icebreakers is to conduct scientific studies.

Photo from USCG


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