I’ve been pondering the misadventures of the Akademik Shokalskiy for several days, thinking about the difference in result between an excursion planned on the cheap by people who depend on things going smoothy and a voyage planned by people who included contingencies and had access to more capable technology.
In the summer of 1994, the United States and Canada collaborated on a polar expedition aimed at studying the impact of global warming on the seas surrounding the North Pole. Each nation contributed its most powerful icebreaker. The planners determined that an expedition with two powerful ships, each with independent and redundant capabilities would enable them to conduct a surface transit through western waters to the North Pole.
Although the same path had been repeatedly traveled by nuclear-powered submarines that could take the easy way to the North Pole by traveling under the ice — with the first trip completed by the USS Nautilus in 1958 — the USCGC Polar Sea and the CCGS Louis St-Laurent were designed to power their way through packed ice, at least in the thinner ice prevalent in July and August.
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