Ice Battle

Author Unknown

From Doak Walker's 255 Site


Enroute to Ocean Station BRAVO on 13 January 1962 the OWASCO encountered a Northeast storm approximately 30 miles east of the coast of Newfoundland which brought subfreezing sea and air temperatures. The Storm lasted about 10 hours and by the morning of 14 January the ship had accumulated three inches of ice forward and two inches of frozen slush amidships. The lifelines, 40MM mount, bridge area and lower portion of the forward antennas had approximately two inches of ice on them. The ice on the vertical surfaces and lifelines was knocked off with baseball bats. The decks were washed down with the hot water de-icing system. The ice and slush were removed in approximately two hours.

On 24 January, while on Ocean Station Bravo, the ship encountered another storm. This one brought with it winds of 75 mph and gusts to the top of the anemometer, subfreezing air temperatures and average sea temperatures of 35F. The wind generated a steep, fast moving swell which caused violent pitching. The vessel was maintaining bare steerageway into the sea. This was the safest course to maintain station since the ship could not out run the seas.

During the night a particularly heavy cross sea broke over the vessel and smashed the No.1 Monomoy Pulling Boat. At the same time the shock from this sea lifted the port motor boat from its skid rest and caused the gunwale gripes to rip through the gunwales. This boat came to rest with the half saddle thrust into the turn of the bilge. The port boat boom also broke loose and was banging against the side of the ship while dragging along in the water. It was so badly banged up and twisted it had to be cut away to prevent other damage.

Sometime during this same night the SPS/29 Radar antenna sheared its mounting flange and at daylight it was found lodged up against the guardrail. It was securely lashed in this position to prevent it from reeking havoc at some future unexpected movement. Only moderate icing conditions existed and the de-icing system and baseball bats sufficed in removing it.

In addition to the above damages the IFF antenna and after starboard boat davit control system were torn loose during this storm. These damages made it impossible to accomplish the primary mission of the Ocean Station Vessel and a relief was requested. The Operational Commander ordered out the Mendota as a relief and due to the unpredictability of the weather the OWASCO was authorized to intercept the MENDOTA as close as possible to the southwest corner of Ocean Station BRAVO.

During the afternoon and evening of 27 January the barometer fell steadily, the winds increased and the air and sea temperatures went well below freezing. The seas picked up and the swells became high, steep and short. The OWASCO again headed into the sea at as slow a speed as possible to maintain steerageway. Under these conditions the seas still broke over the bow with the wind picking up the spray and sending it as high as the forward yardarm. As the spray lifted out of the water it froze sticking as ice, to whatever it hit. The ports in the pilot house froze so rapidly that the wipers were completely ineffective. An electric heater was rigged six inches from the glass to blow hot air on one of the ports to keep the wiper operating.

An effort was made to begin de-icing operation late in the afternoon of 28 January but the wind was so high that it tore the hose stream apart and instead of helping the situation it just added a slick coating to the decks and made it extremely hazardous for personnel. Darkness was falling rapidly and further de-icing was postponed until the following morning as there was no major structural damage from this icing.

Work was done during the night to establish the stability of the ship. The total weight could not be calculated due to the great number of variables involved. Though it was difficult to identify, the natural roll was used in conjunction with the ship's beam dimensions to find GM. GM was used with "Displacement and other Curves" (CR-105-2901-5) and the "Cross Curves of Stability" (CR-105-2901-12) to arrive at an estimated corrected stability. It was impossible to accurately determine draft. In spite of all these variables it was still felt that approximation was better than none at all. However, to be on the safe side the poorest conditions of stability were chosen so that any error in judgment would be taken into account.

Plans were formulated during the night and in the morning the de-icing operation went into full swing. Ice was removed from the main deck first were the added weight of the salt water used in the operation would have the least harmful effect on stability and where the water would run off the ship most rapidly. The teams then worked from the main deck upward. The method used consisted of slicing large chunks of ice with hot water and throwing them overboard.

About the time that the majority of the ice was removed from the main deck the OWASCO entered field ice and the wind and seas abated. At this time the ship had a natural roll of about 12 seconds. The ship was then headed down swell at minimum steerage speed which reduced rolling and yet kept a desirable slight roll which aided in removing the water and ice blocks as rapidly as possible.




Return To Coast Guard Stories