Our Thanks to the US Coast Guard and The International Ice Patrol
U. S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol Once Again Remembers Those Lost on Titanic
On a cold but sunny April 15th over the treacherous iceberg invested waters of the North Atlantic the men and women of U. S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina and the International Ice Patrol once again paused to remember the 1500 plus souls lost with the RMS Titanic. Ice Reconnaissance Detachment (ICERECDET) #5 deployed from Elizabeth City on 14 April 2002. After a brief stop in Groton, Connecticut to pick up the “Ice Picks” from the International Ice Patrol the C-130 long-range maritime patrol aircraft headed for St. John’s, Newfoundland for nine days of iceberg hunting. In addition to its primary job of finding the icebergs that might threaten the North Atlantic shipping lanes the ICERECDET’s first ice reconnaissance sortie on April 15th included the somber but important task of holding the Ice Patrol’s annual memorial service for those lost with Titanic. A dramatic plunge of bouquets of flowers into the icy, forbidding waters some 300 feet below concluded the ceremony. The Titanic Historical Society has been an active participant on the wreath drop for 30 years now. They have consistently provided wreaths, memoriams and taken part in past onboard ceremonies. The Ice Patrol, White Star Line Restaurant in Westerly, Rhode Island, and the Titanic Historical Society purchased the flowers for this year’s memorial. The presence of several large icebergs served to make the ceremony an even greater reminder to the men and women of the Ice Patrol of the importance of their constant vigil.
The exact date of the first memorial ceremony conducted by the Ice Patrol in not known. From information contained in the Ice Patrol’s annual reports we know for certain that it has been conducted annually since at least 1923. Prior to the introduction of long-range patrol aircraft after WWII, the ceremony was conducted on the fantail of the Coast Guard cutters assigned to International Ice Patrol duties.
The U. S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol traces its roots directly to the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April of 1912. Established by the first Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention in 1914, the International Ice Patrol continues to operate today under the regulations set forth in SOLAS by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the federal statutes codified in Title 46, Section 738a. The International Ice Patrol is funded by 17 nations signatory to the SOLAS agreement. In short, the Ice Patrol’s mission is to monitor the movement of icebergs and oceanographic conditions in the Grand Banks region of the North Atlantic Ocean and warn the transatlantic mariner of iceberg dangers. While this charge may sound simple, it requires a litany of tasks to accomplish. These tasks include: the periodic searching of nearly 500,000 square miles of ocean; an in-depth understanding of the dynamic weather and ocean currents on the Grand Banks; monitoring and predicting the movements of thousands of icebergs; continuous operation of a sophisticated computer model known as the Berg Analysis and Prediction System (BAPS); transmission of warnings and ice charts to ships at sea in a host of different formats; and nearly daily cooperation with over 30 organizations and agencies in the United States, Canada, and Europe. A U. S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area command, the International Ice Patrol has a crew of 16 and is based in Groton, CT. The iceberg reconnaissance portion of the mission is accomplished using HC-130H long-range surveillance aircraft based in Elizabeth City, NC. The C-130s used for ice patrol are equipped with the AN/APS 135 side-looking and AN/APS 137 forward-looking airborne radar’s. In addition to all mission coordination and management of the deployed iceberg reconnaissance missions over the Grand Banks, the International Ice Patrol maintains an operations center in Groton, monitoring North Atlantic vessel traffic, tracking the iceberg population/distribution, and distributing the IIP’s ice warnings and ice products to the mariners at sea.