The CCGS Amundsen is the only Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker dedicated to science and the flagship of research vessels in Canada. The Amundsen brought new life to Canadian Arctic science by giving Canadian researchers and their international collaborators unprecedented access to the Arctic Ocean. The ship’s transformations and scientific equipment make it a versatile platform for oceanographers, climatologists, marine geologists, marine ecologists, and epidemiologists studying health in northern communities.
the CCGS Amundsen‘s expeditions, it’s:
With the continued support of the CFI-MSI Fund and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Amundsen has now become the most important research vessel in Canada, supporting multidisciplinary programs throughout the year extending from the St. Lawrence River to the Arctic Ocean. In parallel, it makes no doubt that the 40-year-old icebreaker is aging and requires increasing maintenance periods that may affect her availability. Hence, at the same time as we aim at preserving Canada’s research capacity to study ice-covered seas by operating the Amundsen for science in years to come, we will pursue our efforts to stimulate federal government authorities into developing a plan to replace Canada’s only dedicated research icebreaker.
For the first time ever, opportunistic science expeditions on the St. Lawrence Seaway during winter are organized in the framework of the Odyssée Saint-Laurent program from the Quebec Maritime Network.
The long-awaited BaySys project led by the University of Manitoba is successfully completed.
An ROV project targeting vulnerable ecosystems of southern Baffin Bay in collaboration with the EU Horizon 2020 ATLAS program is supported. New projects involving collaboration between academic centres and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are implemented. Those include the Integrated Studies and Ecosystem Characterization of the Labrador Sea Deep Ocean (ISECOLD), the Knowledge and Ecosystem-Based Approach in Baffin Bay (KEBABB), and the Atlantic Zonal Offshore Monitoring Program (AZOMP). Annual ArcticNet expeditions continue and diversify their scope, with new sub-projects ranging from ocean physics to glaciers, biogeochemical fluxes, and living marine resources.
In 2019, an additional $4.5M is awarded from the CFI to provide scientific users with more ship-time and with improved technical support for the deployment of the ship’s extensive pool of equipment. In addition to facilitating access to academic users, the new grant will enable the replacement of several systems that have reached their life expectancy, including the ROV used to explore the Arctic seafloor ecosystem, the multibeam sonar to map the ocean floor, and the EK60 scientific echo-sounder to study plankton and fish
The CFI-MSI funding for the Amundsen is renewed for another 5 years at a total amount of $18.2M. In June, the first leg of the 2017 expedition dedicated to the BaySys program in Hudson Bay is cancelled as a result of the unusually heavy ice conditions prevailing along Newfoundland. The Amundsen is urgently requested to assist local communities with icebreaking, escort and search-and-rescue. The program will be rescheduled for 2018. Later in summer, the Inuit Health Survey Qanuilirpitaa? (How are we now?) is conducted as a follow-up survey to the 2004 Qanuippitaa?. Unprecedented in size, the project compiles knowledge aiming to improve the health and well-being of Nunavimmiut communities.
The Amundsen supports the innovative Green Edge program in Baffin Bay. The project gathers international experts in marine optics and ecology to better understand the Arctic spring bloom and predict its variability in the Arctic Ocean of tomorrow. Bio-Argo profilers adapted to sea ice environments are deployed.
In addition to Green Edge and ArcticNet, other projects supported include the Kitikmeot Marine Ecosystems Study, the integrated Beaufort Observatory (iBO) sponsored by the Environment Studies Research Fund, and a dedicated project on the ecology of deep-sea coral forests in the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay based on the Amundsen’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).
Following the recommendation of the expert panel that evaluated the Amundsen’s MSI proposal, the scientific program of the CCGS Amundsen is incorporated as a non-profit organization using the name “Amundsen Science”. The incorporation strengthens the governance and management of the CCGS Amundsen as a national research infrastructure. Various standing committees are created. In the same year, the Amundsen supports a collaboration between ArcticNet and the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador. The project collects scientific data and execute full-scale field-testing of key technologies addressing ice hazards and industry requirements for cold ocean operations.
The Amundsen is awarded $7.2M from the CFI’s Major Scientific Initiative (MSI) Fund to consolidate operations and maintenance (O&M) of the infrastructure over 2014-17. The technical team expands through the hiring of highly-qualified oceanographic instrumentation technicians. Preventive maintenance becomes the rule. Sea trials during which the crew and scientists rehearse deployment of scientific equipment are implemented before departure for the Arctic.
The Amundsen supports the international Network on Climate and Aerosols in Remote Environments (NETCARE) to study the Arctic climate system and atmospheric particles. In September 2014, the Amundsen transits to the Chukchi Sea for a collaborative project with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).
The CCGS Amundsen remains unavailable for scientific missions throughout 2012 owing to major refits conducted on the ship’s engines.
In March 2012, the CCGS Amundsen is chosen to adorn the new Canadian $50 polymer bank note. This honour is a spectacular indicator of the importance of the icebreaker and its research accomplishments for Canada. In December 2012, hundreds of people visit the ship while posted at the Port of Montreal during the International Polar Year 2012: From Knowledge to Action conference.
Following the award of oil & gas exploration licenses in the offshore Beaufort Sea by the Government of Canada, the Amundsen supports ArcticNet-Industry partnerships over 2009-11 to enhance engineering and scientific data that address issues such as ocean floor stability, sea-ice regime, and ecological importance of the targeted areas.
The programs generate a wealth of new information on the Beaufort environment, but since then, the Canadian Arctic waters were designated as indefinitely off limits to new offshore development.
In 2009, the Amundsen undertakes an ambitious circum-North America voyage through the Panama Canal and Bering Strait to be positioned in the Beaufort Sea by early July.
In addition, the Amundsen support academic-based programs such as the Mackenzie Light and Carbon Program (MALINA), IPY-Geotraces, the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONE), and a pilot study for the BaySys program in Hudson Bay.
The Canadian component of The International Polar Year 2007-08 provides the opportunity to develop a second overwintering campaign in the Beaufort Sea. Following the success of CASES 2003-04, the Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) System Study targets physical and biological changes in a narrow path of thinner sea ice and interconnected polynyas in the Arctic Ocean named the “flaw lead”. A unique aspect of the CFL mission is that the ship remains mobile throughout the wintertime.
The 2007-08 expedition lasts 15 months and supports other projects part of the Canadian IPY such as the Surface-Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS) and the second Inuit Health Survey Qanuippitali? (How about us?).
Equipment pool of the CCGS Amundsen continues to be enhanced through a Leading Edge Fund contribution of $6.6M from the CFI along with matching funds of $4.3M from the Quebec and Manitoba governments. This grant allows for the upgrade and the purchase of new scientific equipment, which establishes the CCGS Amundsen as a state-of-the-art research platform for the study of the changing Arctic.
Another 84-day expedition for ArcticNet revisits the Arctic from Baffin Bay to the Beaufort Sea.
Following the CASES expedition, funding is awarded by the Networks of Centres of Excellence program for the creation of ArcticNet, the first ever Arctic research network in Canada gathering together best expertise in the natural, social, and health sciences.
The CCGS Amundsen becomes the main marine platform of the network, supporting a comprehensive 84-day expedition in 2005 across the entire Canadian Arctic.
ArcticNet expeditions aboard the Amundsen will be conducted annually up to today.
After more than 15 years, ArcticNet and the CCGS Amundsen formed a strong relationship in which much of the success of each entity is rooted.
On 26 August 2003, the new research icebreaker is rechristened the CCGS Amundsen in honour of the Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen and its pioneer expedition in the Northwest Passage initiated 100 years earlier. The ship celebrates a renewed Canadian vision for understanding the unique and spectacular environments of the Arctic, all in a spirit of international collaboration.
In September, the Amundsen leaves for her first scientific and overwintering expedition, CASES, 348 days in the Beaufort Sea, followed by the Inuit Health Survey Qanuippitaa – How are we? (42 days in Nunavik), for a total of 390 days at sea.
In response to a proposal from a consortium of 34 Canadian universities and 14 federal departments, a $27,5M grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is awarded to Université Laval for the scientific retrofit of the decommissioned Sir John Franklin and for the acquisition of a diverse pool of scientific equipment. A substantial contribution (>$5M) from Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Coast Guard enables the completion of modifications to the ship to develop dedicated laboratory spaces and receive state-of-the-art scientific equipment.
Polar regions are confirmed as the barometer of Global Warming. International efforts to better understand the impact of climate change on the Arctic system take shape. Multidisciplinary research becomes essential to assess the links between the atmosphere and sea ice variability, the ecosystems, and the consequences on human health and well-being. Following the success of the International North Water Polynya program in northern Baffin Bay, an ambitious project named the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES) is put forwards to study sea ice variability and carbon fluxes in the Beaufort Sea over an entire annual cycle. However, the project is threatened owing to the unavailability of an appropriate icebreaker to conduct the study.
Prior to its scientific retrofit in 2003, the CCGS Amundsen was known as the Sir John Franklin. The ship was built in 1979 and performed duties for the Canadian Coast Guard on the East Coast and in the northernmost Arctic waters until 1996.
Declared as excess, the ship was decommissioned in 2000.