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USCGC Healy Steams Through Pancake Ice

Smooth Sailing Through Pancake Ice

The icebreaker USCGC Healy opens a path through first-year pancake ice in the Amundsen Gulf during a 2011 mooring cruise in the Arctic Ocean. Though pancake ice can cover large areas, it’s relatively easy for a ship like the Healy to break through. Pancake ice isn’t usually thicker than about 4 inches, though it can be as big as 10 feet in diameter. This relatively thin ice usually forms when waves push slushy water together at the surface. That’s easy steaming for the Healy though; the 420-foot ship can break 4-1/2 feet of ice continually when traveling at 3 knots. (Photo by Donglai Gong, Woods Hole Oceanographic Instiution)


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