While the wreck of the Titanic crumbles into oblivion four kilometres below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, one of the projects created as a result of the disaster continues to this day one kilometre above the icy waters.
The first flight of the season for the International Ice Patrol took place Friday and Telegram photographer Keith Gosse was invited along for a chance to observe how the crew aboard the HC-130J Hercules aircraft goes about the task of looking for icebergs.
The ice patrol was established in 1913 through an international treaty, one year after a collision with an iceberg claimed the Titanic and 1,517 lives. This year is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship.
The plane is operated by the United States Coast Guard and patrols the waters off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in an effort to locate and track icebergs and warn ships of their locations. The crew uses a combination of visual spotters and sophisticated radar calibrated to detect ice and icebergs.
Stationed at the Torbay airport and flying to a pre-planned area of the Atlantic Ocean about five times every second week, they can cover an area of nearly 50,000 square kilometres and detect an iceberg up to 65 kilometres away.
Thomas McKenzie, the public affairs officer who accompanied our photographer on the flight, described the flight path like “mowing the lawn and being able to see the area you just covered as well as the area you are about to cover.”
As a bonus on this trip, the plane dropped to just over 100 metres above the ocean to deploy a WOCE (World Ocean Circulation Experiment) buoy. For the buoy to drop, the rear cargo doors were opened and two crew members pushed the buoy down the ramp. A parachute on the buoy deployed to slow it’s descent to the surface. During this time, the two crew wore safety harnesses and The Telegram’s photographer was kept behind a safety barrier. The buoy sends back information on ocean currents which can affect the course and speed of a drifting iceberg.
Only some sea ice was spotted during the 6 1/2-hour trip Friday, but with an iceberg season that can stretch into the late summer months, the International Ice Patrol has only just begun it’s work for the year.