CLEARFIELD — Since the Titanic sank 100 years ago, a unique Coast Guard team has been making shipping lanes safer, as they track icebergs and warn mariners about the dangers ahead.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Clifton Hendry, of Clearfield, is a marine technician and member of the U.S. Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol. He spends his days flying over the St. Johns, Newfoundland area, where icebergs traditionally travel. The ice season runs from Feb. 1 through July 31.
Members of the Ice Patrol have been braving the cold to mark and track icebergs in the Northern Atlantic Ocean since 1913.
"It's very unique to the Coast Guard," Hendry said. "As long as ships heed our warnings, we shouldn't have any issues."
Each iceberg along the Grand Banks of Newfoundland is marked, mapped and tracked. Ice Patrol members even drop crates equipped with GPS to help monitor the flow of the waters.
"The job is very tricky," Hendry said. "We have the North Atlantic Current, the Labrador Current, along with the Gulfstream, that all come together."
The data he and his team members gather is invaluable to mariners trying to cross the icy waters.
Back home in Utah, Hendry's parents get to hear about the unique travels from his one-of-a-kind job. "He's actually educated us a lot on the changes that were made since the Titanic sank," said Hendry's father, Rock.
On April 14, 1912, at 11:40 p.m. the Titanic struck an iceberg. It sank less than three hours later. According to the Ice Patrol, not one ship that has followed their warnings since the 1912 disaster has collided with an iceberg. Still, Hendry said it does happen when people decide to cut-corners and take risks.
"They're usually inside the iceberg limit, and it's just a mariner that's not willing to take the extra time to go around our limit to avoid it," Clifton Hendry said. "They try to save money on fuel by taking the shorter path."
That can mean a disastrous mistake. "You can go from a sunny day, and then 15 minutes later have an ice storm. You can go from calm seas to really rough seas," he said.
That's why the Ice Patrol continues to watch the potentially treacherous waters, so ships can pass through having a pretty good idea of what they'll see along the path. "It's really exciting to be a part of this history and do this every day," Hendry said.
The Ice Patrol has been watching those waters continuously since 1913, with the exception of the years during the two world wars.
Last season, two icebergs where found in the shipping zones. This year, the Ice Patrol is tracking 90 known objects.
“We have a 100 percent success rate,” he said. “No ship heeding our warning has collided with an iceberg.”
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