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Research icebreaker celebrates 10th birthday

Quebec City, QC – The Canadian Coast Guard ship Amundsen is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a research icebreaker this year as it departs Quebec City today for its annual expedition to the Canadian Arctic. Over the past 10 years, the ship has been a major catalyst in revitalizing Canadian Arctic science by giving Canadian researchers and their international collaborators unprecedented access to the Arctic Ocean.

The ship underwent a massive retrofit in 2002-2003, supported by major funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and emerged as a state-of-art research platform. It is one of the few Canadian Coast Guard vessels to have a dual purpose, dedicated to scientific operations in the Canadian Arctic during the summer and fall and performing icebreaking and escort manoeuvres for the Coast Guard throughout the winter and spring in the river, estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence.

“The Amundsen and the partnership between academia and the Coast Guard constitutes one of the most powerful scientific tools available to Canada and the international community for studying the transformation of the Arctic,” says Dr. Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet and scientific leader – CCGS Amundsen. “Equipped with new engines and its scientific equipment in top condition, the icebreaker is ready for the 2013 scientific expedition and beyond.”

Since its maiden voyage in 2003, the ship has made annual trips to the Canadian Arctic in support of ArcticNet, a Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada based out of Université Laval, and their national and international partners and collaborators. The ship’s facilities and pool of over $30 million in scientific equipment make it a versatile research platform for polar research in geology, climate studies, oceanography, biogeochemistry, marine ecology, fisheries, benthic ecology, sea ice, atmospheric sciences, climatology, contaminants, terrestrial ecology, human health and epidemiology.

Since 2003, the vessel has spent over 1,400 research days at sea and accommodated over 1,100 scientists, researchers, technicians, students, professionals and media from over 20 different countries, travelling over 150,000 nautical miles or almost seven times the circumference of the Earth.

Eighty members of the Canadian Coast Guard and over 100 scientific participants will join in this year’s expedition as the Amundsen travels along the coasts of Labrador and Baffin Island, north to Baffin Bay, through the Northwest Passage to the Beaufort Sea and back again, returning to Quebec City in mid-October.