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USCGC Mackinaw Breaking Ice, Preparing for Spring Shipping Season

The U.S. Coast Guard is hard at work ice breaking to clear shipping channels for freighters.

The locks open for the season later this week.

The USCG Cutter Mackinaw made its way through the Soo Locks on Friday.

Monday, they were breaking up ice on the St. Marys River.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik were on board to show us why it’s so important.

With ice several inches thick in the shipping channels throughout the Great Lakes, the USCG is working to break things up so that freighters can start making their way back through. 

"We’re getting ready for what’s called spring opening," USCGC Mackinaw assistant operations officer Chantel Early said. "It’s basically just making sure that traffic flow throughout the river is constant and allowing commerce to get up and down the river." 

The USCGC Mackinaw crew says they’re confident the ice will break up easily through the St. Marys River and Gros Cap Reef, but out further the ice has gotten much thicker.

"We had a huge storm day where heavy northern winds broke up the ice and pushed it underneath, so instead of having just six to eight inches of ice, we were getting upwards of 48 inches," Early said.

They’ll be ice breaking all week to make sure channels are clear for the opening of the shipping season Saturday.

"It’s really important because of commerce," Early said. "We have tankers coming in and out of the lakes with coal, taconite, other minerals and this just helps product flow smoothly throughout the Great Lakes." 

It’s also pretty amazing to watch.

Students like Joanne Arbic were also on board to see it all happen.

"It’s kind of like ‘woah,’" Arbic said. "Up there on the front it’s exciting and it’s kind of exhilarating to see all that moving because it’s a lot."

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