High Arctic Haulers·Video

Small but mighty, these fragments of ice can sink a ship

Sea ice is the biggest threat to the Desgagnés cargo ships as they navigate the Arctic, and the most dangerous pieces of ice are virtually undetectable by radar.

Sea ice is the biggest threat to the Desgagnés cargo ships as they navigate the Arctic, especially growlers.

Growlers

3 years ago
Duration 1:09
Sea ice is the biggest threat to the Desgagnés cargo ships as they navigate the High Arctic, and the most dangerous pieces of ice—"growlers"—are virtually undetectable by radar.

"It could definitely sink the ship," says Simon Charest, First Mate, Sedna Desgagnés.

Every summer, vessels such as the Sedna Desgagnés, navigate treacherous Arctic waters to bring goods to isolated communities. Along with heavy winds and storms, the crew are constantly on the lookout for growlers; small fragments of ice that have split off from larger icebergs. While underwater they can be as big as a car, above water they are small, sometimes only a couple of feet high.

Despite its deceptively small size above water, a growler poses a real threat to cargo ships, which might be huge but often aren't built for withstanding the kind of impact a dense obstacle like this can inflict on their hulls. "It's like steel. If you go at it too fast, or you catch it the wrong way, it can tear a ship apart," says Captain Michel Duplain, Sedna Desgagnés.

These small-but-mighty obstacles can also go undetected by radar systems, making them more complicated for crews to locate. With few other options, the crew relies on seeing the growlers when they are nearby. "Your eyes will tell you what's happening," says Charest.

 

If you hit it, you're gonna hear it!- Michel Duplain, captain, Sedna Desgagnés

Growlers get their name from the sound they make when they hit the hulls of ships. Captain Duplain says, "If you hit it, you're gonna hear it!"

 

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