Sunday, December 5, 2021

Some call it nostalgia...

 Having been around for a while I do recollect things that happened long ago. I realize however that my definition of long ago has changed and now must include events in years that seem fairly recent. Those events are now part of "history" and might be included in a trivia contest. It was therefore somewhat startling when I realized the subject of today's post happened no less than thirty years ago.

The Canadian Coast Guard acquired its "newest" arctic icebreaker in 1991, and decommissioned one of its best known ships.

The acquistion was the Terry Fox, an eight year old ship, leased from private industry, which began trials December 2, in advance of going into service in January of 1992. The ship it was to replace was CCGS John A. Macdonald which had reached the advanced age of 31. It was to make a paying off trip around Halifax harbour December 2 in advance of formal decommissioning on December 4, 1991. 

I have to wonder if the CCG knew then that thirty years later they still would not have a new polar icebreaker that they might have kept the John A. Macdonald going for a while longer, or acquired the Kalvik a twin sister of the Terry Fox. [see footnote below.]

 The Terry Fox on a trials trip in Halifax in December 1991.

The Terry Fox was built by Burrard-Yarrows Corp of Vancouver to support Gulf Canada Resources arctic oil projects. Gulf's Beaufort Sea work was carried out by its subsidiary Beaudrill, which needed icebreaking tug/ suppliers to work year round. The two 23,000 bhp ships were the most powerful privately owned icebreakers in the world when delivered in 1983. 


In 1991, with the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in a major five year long conversion from steam to diesel electric, the CCG leased the Terry Fox from Beaudrill, with an option to purchase which was taken up in 1993.

On December 1, 1991 the Canadian Coast Guard hosted a public open house at the Dartmouth base, with tours of the Terry Fox and the John A. Macdonald.

 Getting ready to pay off, the John A. Macdonald still looked spendid.

During its thirty year career the John A. Macdonald acquired near legendary status. Built by Davie Shipbuilding in Lauzon, the 13,000 shp diesel electric vessel was perhaps best known for its role in the Manhattan's arctic trip, but the ship set many records, and made numerous voyages in the arctic (which was much more "arctic" than it is now) and the Gulf of St.Lawrence (ditto for winter).

 A quick survey of the Wikipedia entry for the ship is a good refresher: John A. Macdonald


Back in 1991 Shipfax was an eight page newlsetter (printed on a dot matrix printer) and my account of the visit to the Terry Fox and John A. Macdonald included the following:

"The contrast between the two ships is remarkable. Terry Fox is in every way a modern ship, which is conned from a comfortable padded seat where the QM is surrounded by all the controls and instruments within easy reach...[John A.] Macdonald is very much old school with engine room telegraphs of gleaming brass and ...requiring several persons on the bridge and a fully manned engine room."

The John A. Macdonald was laid up in Dartmouth, and finally left Halifax November 22, 1993 in tow of the Dutch tug Elizabeth for India where it was eventually broken up sometime in 1995. Presumably some of the artefacts pictured above have been kept for posterity.


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