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Icy photos show Coast Guard, freighters pushing through Great Lakes freeze

Jan 09, 2018 07:08AM ● By Editor

In this photo, bitter cold envelopes the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay and the 1,000-foot freighter Walter J. McCarthy Jr. as they prepare to lock down-bound above the Poe Lock. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District.)

By Tanda Gmiter from M Live - January 6, 2018

The groaning sound of metal hulls pushing through ice has been a growing refrain across much of The Great Lakes this week as the Arctic cold snap continued for a second week, leaving many freighters battling the deep freeze.

Ice coverage is nearing 30 percent in the region. A small fleet of U.S. Coast Guard cutters has been increasingly busy freeing freighters that have become trapped in the ice.

Each winter, the Coast Guard helps ensure the transport of more than $1 billion in cargo through the Great Lakes.

In mid-December, it kicked off Operation Taconite, the country's largest domestic icebreaking operation. This means each time one of the big freighters grinds to a halt against the ice in Lake Superior, Lake Huron or others, a Coast Guard cutter motors toward it to break up the ice and create a path to get the bigger ship on its way.

The Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps have been sharing photos of frozen freighters and the icebreaking fleet this week. Here's a sampling.


Ice is shown coating the bow of the Walter J. McCarthy as she entered the Soo Locks earlier this week with 67,507 tons of iron ore on her way to Zug Island. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District.)

Operations Taconite and Coal Shovel

As part of Operation Taconite, ice breakers are assigned to each region.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder is managing ice-breaking operations in western Lake Superior. This includes the ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, as well as Thunder Bay, Ontario.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay is assigned to the St. Marys River.

Operation Taconite covers Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Georgian Bay, and Lake Michigan.

Farther east, the Coast Guard’s Operation Coal Shovel handles ice-breaking in southern Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair/Detroit River, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

It’s a joint operation with the Canadian Coast Guard. Icebreakers from both countries work together to free ships as conditions worsen throughout the winter.


Ice encases the top of the Walter J. McCarthy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District.)

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