Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Zodiac to the North Pole

Looking at Saturday's sea ice map reveals that the perimeter has continued to tighten and that we also seem to have 50% ice coverage to the North Pole coming from the Bering Strait side of the ice. That means that small zodiacs could possibly penetrate to the north pole. That would be fun.

The North West Passage continues to be essentially open although 50% ice has blown into the mouth of Lancaster Sound. I suspect that the reduction of sea ice thickness this year which had to be substantial will lead even less ice presence there next year even if next year turns out to be neutral.

In fact, I think an ice thickness survey this season is highly appropriate. In the meantime, we are likely looking at the maximal perimeter reduction since any further reduction is likely to be small.

There has been a lot of discussion in Canada on the role of the Canadian Navy in patrolling the Arctic seaways. I think it is time to think through the possibility of deploying a commercially built large nuclear powered hovercraft ice breaker. It would have to be as long as an aircraft carrier and at least twice as broad.

The down draft from a hovercraft design lifts ice up out of the water, causing it to breakup. This has now been demonstrated on thinner ice in the St Lawrence Seaway with much smaller craft. It is a very elegant solution to working safely with the problem.

Such a vessel would also be able to deploy in the off season on other missions as a high speed troop transport and limited weapons platform. I do not know if it would be feasible to fly helicopters off such a system.

At least we should announce a plan to do so and study it to death for a few years. Then no one at NATO could claim that we are not taking our commitments or the Arctic seriously.

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