9. Guest Blog: Ray Pierce
March 14, 2017
I am delighted to join the Captain and complement of Oliver Hazard Perry in the capacity of Ice Pilot. I am an “old hand” in the Arctic and in dealing with Arctic challenges. Despite the menace of my years as a shipmaster and ice pilot this is my first “Tall Ship” assignment.
My career has centered on service in the Canadian Coast Guard as a Ship’s Officer, Commanding Officer then with industry focusing on Arctic Offshore as an icebreaker captain , superintendent and manager and finally again with the Canadian Coast Guard as a senior executive responsible for all CG and Dept. of Fisheries operations in Central and Arctic Canada. During this period I worked determinedly to build an ongoing program for Arctic Science. This past ten years as president of Polar Marine Ltd., I have returned to work as the senior ice pilot and manager of ice operations. I also maintain a focus on related activities such as technological developments, ice management systems, etc. I have developed specialized technologies and operational methodologies to advance operations in waters where ice dominates and where cold ocean engineering rules the day. This has included ice-seismic used to gain scientific information where little has been previously been possible including the rigorous coastal waters of NE Greenland and nearly to the North Pole.
I am passionate about all “Arctic matters” and especially ships, ice, and the people with whom we share the circumpolar arctic. A related passion is for sailing and visiting the lesser known coastal places that hold their own stories. Whenever circumstances permit, I venture out on my sailboats; Arctic Grail and Arctic Bear, a pair of lovely sister offshore cutters.
In support of the OHP Arctic Mission we have advanced assessments of historical ice conditions with assessments of various probabilities for our area of interest. We will soon be conducting our early season outlook for this part of the Northwest Passage and adjacent waters. The Arctic marine mosaic is dominated by two emerging realities of particular importance to us in considering this voyage. Firstly, the Arctic ice regimes are in decline due to climate change. While this often relates to less harsh ice regimes and more open water in the summer Arctic Navigation Season, it also embraces new challenges for ice-navigation as we find the more rigorous old ice migrating to areas where it has traditionally been restrained by first year ice, and similar variations. Secondly, the traveling partner of climate change is greater inter-year variability which has been so prevalent in the Arctic. Thus the “median ice” condition is more nebulous than in earlier, more climatically-stable times. Less in the Arctic does not mean that our particular area of interest will be treated accordingly in any given year.
My main role onboard Oliver Hazard Perry will be to support the Captain and the entire mission with quality ice advice and recommendations to ensure the voyage is conducted in ice conditions the ship can confidently manage. Our ship is not designed to break ice and we will treat ice with due respect. We will make use of the best technologies available such as satellite ice imagery, a Narwhal Ice Management System, ice charts, ice prediction models and proven “ice navigation” practices to properly manage the mission. We will encounter ice but we will not allow ourselves to be compromised.