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13 June 2017

Arctic Sea Ice Pushes South, Traps Fishing Vessels off Newfoundland Coast

Five fishermen narrowly escaped what could have been a decidedly deadly disaster last Wednesday, as Arctic pack ice trapped their fishing boats and left them stranded awaiting rescue off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Img: Newfoundland Department of Fisheries and Ocean
This was due to the pack ice in the area being unusually thick, a result of strong winds pushing the ice towards land rather than the sea. In some areas, the pack ice is reportedly up to two metres thick, presenting serious challenges for boating and fishing industries in the region.

Trevor Hodgson, Superintendent of Ice Operations for the Atlantic Region on behalf of the Canadian Coast Guard, said of the unexpected build-up, “We had a bit of stuff that forms over the winter, the normal ice in the area. What we're experiencing now is the ice that has come south through the Arctic due to melting up there.”

To make matters worse, the Coast Guard have been unable to dispatch icebreaker ships to help free the trapped vessels due to safety concerns.

“It’s really dangerous for our icebreakers to go and operate around fishing vessels because we're pushing around these large pieces of ice that can cause damage,” Hodgson said. “It’s a lot of heavier, boulder-like pieces of ice going towards the fishing vessels and it's just not safe.”

All five fishermen were eventually picked up by a Cormorant rescue helicopter, which had been dispatched on a training mission in the region at the time an alert was issued by one of the sinking boats. The crew from the 103 Search & Rescue Squadron at 9 Wing Gander arrived to provide assistance at approximately 11am, and all those in jeopardy were evacuated without injury.

However, due to the thickness of the ice and the inability to make use of Newfoundland’s fleet of icebreaker ships, numerous fishing vessels remain trapped off the coast. Fortunately only the boats themselves remain, with all those once on board now having reached safety.

To further highlight the scale of the issue, the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet is still being used to guide larger commercial vessels and ferries through the thick pack ice, a service which is not usually required beyond mid-April.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.