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ShipsShips - All kinds of ships and cruises, cruise lines and cruise ships, including pirate ships, icebreakers and battleships and the world famous Titanic ship. Links to a range of informative sites.

Icebreakers are defined as special purpose ships which are designed to move and navigate through ice covered marine environments. These ships are used to break up ice to prevent flooding of other areas.

Icebreakers, The Healy Spider vessel (Click to enlarge)
Icebreakers, The Healy Spider vessel (Click to enlarge)

The federal government has been providing icebreaking services since 1873 when Prince Edward Island stipulated year-round ferry service as a condition for entry into confederation. In the St. Lawrence River valley, annual winter flooding was caused by the formation of ice barriers in the narrow points of the river. In 1904, icebreakers were assigned to break up the ice at strategic locations in the river and keep the ice moving down the deepest channels.

Icebreakers break ice by using momentum and power to push their bow up on the ice. The ice is pushed down by the weight of the ship which causes the ice to break off in chunks.

Early icebreakers were made of wood and the hull often had a rounded bow. These ships rammed into ice and tried to break it using brute force. Wood has some flexibility and resiliency, which helped the ships withstand some of the pressure of the ice, but it had its limits.

Modern icebreakers have a hull made of thick steel that has good low-temperature strength. Inside the hull is a massive support structure with closely spaced steel ribs. The thickness of the steel and the structure keep the ship from breaking under pressure.

As many as six diesel-powered generators may be needed to run an icebreaker, some other icebreakers are powered by nuclear engines. The ship's powerful engines propel the hull up and forward, gravity then does the rest of the work breaking the thick polar ice.

Some of the above information was taken from Ask Yahoo where more useful information can be found.

The most relevant links we could find, placed here free

Cool Antarctica - Detailed information about Icebreakers and ice-strengthened ships.

Nuclear Icebreaker ships - Detailed information about nuclear powered ice breaker vessels.

Icebreakers, Polarstern arctic research vessel (Click to enlarge)
Icebreakers, Polarstern arctic research vessel (Click to enlarge)

Some arctic vessels like the Polarstern (Above) are used to determine the thickness of ice in remote areas, this thickness of ice is what needs to be broken to prevent a build up and potential flooding. Researchers work out which areas are going to be the most efficient areas of thick polar ice to break, they then relay coordinates to the ships which start the breaking process.

More useful information about icebreakers can be found at Wikipedia and at CCG-GCC.

Site written by Dan Gillick