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Engine trouble scuttles plans for Arctic research expedition

Posted on behalf of Hannah Hoag.

Canada’s Arctic research vessel the CCGS Amundsen has been put out of action while it awaits engine repairs, forcing researchers to cancel the ship’s research programme for 2012.

A routine inspection in December 2011 revealed cracks on four of the ships six engines. “She can’t go into the Arctic this summer,” says Martin Fortier, executive director of ArcticNet, a research network based at Laval University in Quebec City, Quebec, that provides funding and logistics for Arctic research in Canada. “But if it had to happen, this was a good year for it.” Fortier says the plans to repair the ship are still being formed, but that he is confident it will be ready for the 2013 research season.

ArcticNet had been planning a relatively small expedition for the Amundsen (right) this year, with only two six-week legs that did not involve major partnerships or international collaborations. The ship normally averages about 150 research days at sea each year, but during the International Polar Year (which lasted from March 2007 to March 2009), the Amundsen spent 460 days at sea.

Fortier says that researchers will have to rely on other vessels to collect data from moorings in the Beaufort Sea and Hudson Bay, a core activity of the programme.

“We plan to save much of the funding dedicated to this year to build up a stronger 2013 programme,” says Fortier. “Many researchers would rather that we leave the ship longer in specific areas to carry out a more extensive programme, for example in Baffin Bay, and that will likely happen because we’ll have more funding for next year’s operation.”

Feiyue Wang, an environmental chemist at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, had hoped to study mercury and other contaminants in sea ice from the Amundsen this year. Wang says that he was disappointed when he heard the news. “We had collected one ice core last year, and we would have collected more this year.”

Wang says that he plans to shift his focus to other projects for the coming year. “We’re hoping that it will not affect next year’s expedition,” he says.

Photo: Hannah Hoag

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