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Thank Canada: Iced-in Lake Superior ships get moving again

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Earlier this week, more than a dozen ships were stuck in a giant ice field on Lake Superior.

By Wednesday night they were moving again, thanks in big part to the efforts of Pierre Radisson, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

Radisson is 37 years old, and a bit on the portly side. But it's not really his fault, as he's a giant ice-breaking ship.

Pierre – an "essential tool" of Canada's Coast Guard – pushed its way into eastern Lake Superior Wednesday, Soo Today reports, and gave a powerful boost to the U.S. icebreakers on the scene (one of which was hamstrung by engine issues).

By Wednesday night, the stuck ships were free to once again head toward their destination.

The Duluth News Tribune says of the 18 trapped vessels, 12 were upbound at the time – and most of those were slated to dock in Two Harbors or the Twin Ports.

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The Maritime Executive reports the ice backed up the shipping of Canadian grain, U.S. iron and steel, and other products. WDIO says ice coverage this year is as bad or worse than 2014, when ships sustained $6 million in damage; this year, ship owners are waiting to head out on to the water, which is also resulting in a slow start.

The ships were initially stranded after a giant field of ice was blown into Whitefish Bay near the Soo Locks, directly in the path of the vessels.

Tell me more about Pierre

Pierre's arrival was seen almost as that of a savior, because it's good at what it does.

"Almost with the wave of a wand, the Radisson walks through and the ice parted," Mark Gill of the U.S. Coast Guard told the Duluth News Tribune.

The ship is 322 feet long and 64 feet wide, and uses a diesel-electric propulsion system that can cut through ice a meter thick while traveling at a speed of 6 knots.

Pierre Radisson's captain told Northland's NewsCenter the vessel's hull is usually able to push through the ice. But if it's too thick, the ship can end up riding on top and simply crushing it with its weight.

You can keep track of its location via MarineTraffic.com.

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