PINGOES AND THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

A pingo is a cone of antediluvian ice, coated with frozen muck, a thousand feet at the base, one to two hundred feet high, sticking up like a dirty knife from the bottom of the arctic sea to within forty feet of the surface. It could pierce and rip the bottom of an unsuspecting deep-draft ship. In 1970, the Canadian scientific ship HUDSON, plotting the shape of the Beaufort Sea's basin with a side-scan sonar, found seven pingoes in a row. A few days later, the sonar watchers found a picket line of them stretched across the Northwest Passage. The discovery meant that the long-sought passage around the top of North America was at that time a dead end for supertankers and that the MANHATTAN, which had pioneered the route less than a year before, could be the last as well as the first to make the run. The pingoes will be charted, but there is no way at this time by which the Beaufort Sea can be made safe for deep-draft ships. Any ship in the Sea must contend with the ice pack. Once locked in the pack, a ship moves with the pack and the pack could drag the ship across the pingoes. In addition, another apparently unknown danger was discovered. The ice pack which covers the sea most of the year was so thick and subject to such enormous pressures that "keels" of ice formed extending down to the bottom. As the pack shifted, the keels gouged deep valleys in the sediment of the continental shelf, some twenty to thirty feet deep. The oil reserves were in the shelf, twenty, thirty, sixty miles from shore. The assumption had been that once tapped, the oil could be brought to shore by pipeline, as it is from all other offshore fields. Any pipeline laid on or beneath the ocean floor could be sliced by the first passing keel-the keels hit the bottom even sixty miles out where the water was three hundred feet deep.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Article reprinted from Canada Today/D'Aujourd'hui.
  • Corporate Authors:

    United States Naval Academy Alumni Association

    Alumni House
    Annapolis, MD  USA  21402
  • Publication Date: 1974-6

Media Info

  • Pagination: p. 23-25
  • Serial:
    • Shipmate
    • Volume: 37
    • Issue Number: 5
    • Publisher: United States Naval Academy Alumni Association

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00056446
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: United States Naval Academy Alumni Association
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 15 1974 12:00AM