All eyes on the ice


It's an impressive safety record: Since it was established more than 100 years ago, no ship heeding a warning from the U.S. Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol has collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

As the 2014 ice season begins, reconnaissance is ramping up to keep that record intact. The IIP will deploy a detachment to Newfoundland in early February to conduct the first aerial patrols of the year, primarily with long-range planes from Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina.

Keeping the northern sea lanes safe also involves the Canadian Ice Service, which on Wednesday handed over responsibility for issuing daily iceberg warnings to the IIP. Both agencies use radar and visual surveillance to detect and identify potential threats to commercial and recreational watercraft.

While the 2013 ice season was light — only 13 bergs passed south of the 48th parallel, which typically marks the northern boundary of the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes — it's tough to tell what the outlook will be for 2014. Voyagers can keep abreast of developments by getting updates from the IIP's Navigation Center.

It's wise to remember that bergs can spell disaster for even the mightiest of vessels. The "unsinkable" Titanic met its end near the Grand Banks on April 15, 1912, the event that led to the founding of the IIP.

By Ocean Navigator