December 31, 2007
Position 70° 58.691' N 123° 29.642' W
I awoke this morning to the rumble of the aft crane outside my window. I headed downstairs, got some coffee, and noticed the lack of people in the cafeteria. I wandered around the insides of the ship until the sound of chainsaws drew me outside. On the ice were several of the crew and a few scientists drilling and cutting the ice with augers chainsaws.
The warm water flooding over the sides of the ship overnight did nothing to improve our situation. We were still completely stuck in the ice. The only way out now was to dig our way out. I helped out as best I could that morning. I looked for more augers in the bowels of the ship, put them together, fueled them up, and lowered them down to the ice. Coolers of coffee and water were obtained for the ice crew, tools retrieved, and messages delivered.
At 11:15, the ice crew broke for lunch, thoroughly exhausted. I offered my assistance, and they quickly accepted. I suited up and was lowered down to the ice on the starboard side at about 12:15. A crew of seven including myself was told to start digging out the port side of the ship. We hauled our equipment, two ice augers, a chainsaw, several shovels, and some metal pry bars over the ice ridges and around the bow of the ship.
Marc Ringuette, a research assistant from Laval University in Quebec, and I ran an auger on the port side of the ship drilling holes every meter for half the length of the hull. A crew member followed close behind, using a chainsaw to connect the outsides of the holes, creating a 10 inch wide cut. The ice was then removed, creating a mini trench around the front half of the ship. The idea was that when the ship tried to move, this would relieve some of the pressure of the ice pinching the hull and would weaken the surrounding ice enough to crack under the ship's weight. We dug for about 2 hours on the port side then moved back to starboard side where the ice was piled higher.
After another hour of drilling, cutting, hacking, and hauling away ice from the hull a large crack was heard. It was not visible, but it was felt by everyone. Work was stopped and people and equipment were hoisted back onto the ship. It was announced that the engines would be started at 4:15 and we would attempt to slide off the ice sheet at 4:30.
At 4:30, a bunch of us gathered on the bow to watch first hand whether our work was worth the effort. The engines started, the ship labored, and ice broke. We slowly slid down off the sheet and backed away. There was much dancing on the bow.
The ship located a home for the night a few miles away and shut down for the night. A very nice dinner buffet was put on by the kitchen staff and the New Year's Eve Party began about 9 pm (ending about 2 am). Though tired, everyone was in a good mood because there was good reason to celebrate. It is not too often that an icebreaker gets stuck. It is even less often that you are able to dig it out. It felt really nice to have crew members come up to me to thank me for my help. I wished I could have helped more. These holidays are unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Christmas morning polar bear watch on the ice, New Year's Eve spent digging an icebreaker out. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.