CCGS Labrador

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CCGS Labrador 1982.jpg
CCGS Labrador
Name: Labrador
Namesake: Labrador
Owner: Government of Canada
Builder: Marine Industries Limited, Sorel, Quebec
Yard number: AW 50
Laid down: 1951
Christened: 1954
Commissioned: 8 July 1954.
Maiden voyage: 23 July 1954.
In service: 1954
Out of service: 1987
Refit: January 1955
Homeport: Halifax, NS
  • 50 (RCN)
  • AW-50 (CCG)
  • Call sign CGVM (RCN)
  • Call sign CGGM (CCG)[1]
Fate: Broken up 1989
General characteristics
Class and type: Wind-class icebreaker
Type: Type 1 Patrol vessel, Arctic Icebreaking
Displacement: 3,823 tonnes (4,214.14 short tons)
Length: 82 m (269 ft 0 in)
Beam: 19.2 m (63 ft 0 in)
Draught: 9 m (29 ft 6 in)
Draft: 29 metres (95 ft 2 in)
Ice class: Arctic Class 2-3
Installed power: Six 10-cylinder diesel engines (6 × 2,000 bhp)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric; two shafts (2 × 5,000 hp)
  • 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) (maximum)
  • 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) (cruising)
Complement: 224
Aircraft carried: Two Bell 47 or Bell HTL-4 single-rotor helicopters, or one Piasecki HUP Retriever twin-rotor helicopter.
Notes: Registry #1 310129 Registry #2 CN

CCGS Labrador was a Wind-class icebreaker. First commissioned on 8 July 1954 as Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Labrador (pennant number AW 50) in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Captain O.C.S. "Long Robbie" Robertson, GM, RCN, In Command. She was transferred to the Department of Transport (DOT) on 22 November 1957, and re-designated Canadian Government Ship (CGS) Labrador. She was among the DOT fleet assigned to the nascent Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) when that organization was formed in 1962, and further re-designated Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Labrador. Her career marked the beginning of the CCG's icebreaker operations which continue to this day. She extensively charted and documented the then-poorly-known Canadian Arctic, and as HMCS Labrador was the first ship to circumnavigate North America in a single voyage.

Early history[edit]

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the Canadian government made limited exploration within the vast Arctic coast it laid claim to, largely because it lacked the capacity to make forays into much of this remote terrain. Labrador was conceived as Canada's first modern, powerful icebreaking vessel, which could help meet national defence needs in the high Arctic but also explore the vast area and its rich resources.

Labrador was built in the Marine Industries LTD yards in Sorel, Quebec She was laid down 18 Nov. 1949 and launched 14 Dec. 1951. The builder used modified plans from the just-completed Wind-class icebreakers of the United States Coast Guard. The ship was modified to include then state-of-the-art scientific equipment changing her from a purely military patrol vessel to a self-sufficient explorer—an elaborately equipped floating laboratory, hospital, transport, rescue ship and school. Labrador also trained Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) cadets; with college instructors included in crew. At the time of her commissioning Labrador was the worlds most advanced icebreaker, with Denny Brown gyro stabilizers, and full bridge control of her diesel engines. She was the RCN's first fully diesel-electric vessel, with six 2000 HP engine/generators driving a 5,000 SHP motor on each shaft. Labrador was equipped with starboard and port heeling tanks with 40,000 gallons per minute transfer capability, which facilitated icebreaking operations.

On 10 July 1954 Labrador departed Sorel, Quebec, en route to her new homeport in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Whilst underway the vessel experienced engine troubles (lowered oil pressure), between Sorel and Quebec City, Quebec. Further difficulty was experienced in the Richelieu river, where she developed steering gear problems which were fixed. Labrador arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 14 July 1954.

Northwest Passage voyage[edit]

Labrador set sail on her maiden voyage on 23 July 1954 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, bound for the Labrador Sea. Over the next summer the vessel worked her way through Canada's Arctic archipelago from east to west, conducting hydrographic soundings, resupplying RCMP outposts and deploying assorted scientific and geological teams. Her rendezvous with her American sister-ships USCGC Northwind and USCGC Burton Island off the coast of Melville Island on 25 August 1954 marked the first time American and Canadian Government ships had met in the Arctic from the east and west. During the rendezvous, the crews visited with one another. The three ships surveyed the Beaufort Sea together until the end of September 1954, at which point Labrador headed for the base of Canada's Pacific fleet at Esquimalt, British Columbia. Labrador then became the first large vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. Upon sailing down the west coast of the United States, through the Panama Canal and back to Halifax, Nova Scotia on 21 November 1954; Labrador also became the first ship to circumnavigate North America in a single voyage.


In January 1955 Labrador underwent refit. The remainder of Labrador's early career involved considerable work on the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) project. From June to September 1955, she led a task group of 14 Canadian and American ships delivering thousands of tons of supplies for DEW Line sites under construction in the Foxe Basin area of the eastern Arctic, and in following years continued to provide icebreaking and operational support.

In 1956, Captain T.C. Pullen RCN, sailed Labrador on an expedition through the Northwest Passage. Labrador sailed west through the Prince of Wales Strait, re-tracing the 1944 route of RCMPV St. Roch, which was commanded by Captain Henry A. Larsen, RCMP. Labrador then conducted extensive surveys in the areas of Prince of Wales Strait, including; Somerset Island, and Prince Regent Inlet. Labrador used her helicopters to establish triangulation points on the shore for the survey.

During this voyage Labrador recovered two Admiralty Pattern anchors on "Fury Beach" of Somerset Island (Nunavut), which were left there in 1825 by the crew of HMS Fury. Fury, with HMS Hecla, both commanded by Rear Admiral Sir William Edward Parry, RN, FRS (who then held the rank of Commander, RN); left the anchors, stores, boats, and other useful items there, as Fury was beset and had to be abandoned. The gear was left there for future explorers to use, and because there was no space in Hecla for the equipment. The cache left by Hecla did indeed prove useful to mariners years later. The anchors remained as landmarks for navigators for 136 years. Labrador transported the artifacts to Halifax, and they were placed in the Maritime Command Museum (1961). In 1972 Fury's anchors were moved to CCG Base Dartmouth Nova Scotia. In 1981 the anchors were removed to the Canadian Coast Guard College at Sydney, Nova Scotia, in 1991 the relics were prepared to be part of a popular exhibit. The anchors were donated by MARCOM on 6 May 1998 to the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The anchors are displayed at the northeastern corner of the parade square, and are in the custody of le Musèe du Fort Saint-Jean.

Labrador was transferred to civilian control in 1957, and operated within the Department of Transport (DOT) during the four years before the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) was formally established. She continued to serve the CCG for 29 years, before being sold for scrap in 1987.

Pogo (YFL-104), HMCS Labrador's hydrographic sounding craft was obtained by the Outaouais Branch of the Navy League of Canada from the Canadian War Museum in 2005. Pogo, a 36-ft all-welded aluminum motor boat constructed in 1954, is used in Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Program support.[2]

Ship's History[edit]

  • 1951 Laid down.
  • 1952
  • 1953
  • 1954 Completed and commissioned, in the Royal Canadian Navy, Capt O.C.S. Robertson, GM, RCN, In Command, and based at Halifax, NS.
    • Her first arctic cruise involved:
      • Hydrographic survey.
      • Cosmic ray studies.
      • Magnetic compass studies.
      • Installing navigation markers (Prefabricated - 750 lbs).
    • Non-navigable days were declared Sunday's.
    • First circumnavigation of North America. East to West transit. The first warship to transit the Northwest Passage and the first warship to circumnavigate North America. Capt O.C.S. Robertson, GM RCN, In Command. Returned to Halifax, NS 21 November.
    • First cruise helicopter pilots:
      • LCdr (P) John Laurie (Senior Pilot).
      • LCdr (P) Douglas Albert "Duke" Muncaster (Co-Pilot).[3]
    • First arctic cruise, 17 July 1954.
  • 1955 Hydrologist in Charge (HIC) H. Blandford. Refitted in January.
    • Second arctic cruise; supported DEW line work, sea lift in Foxe Basin, NU. From 5 to 6 July Labrador was beset in Foxe Basin, NU. On 7 July Labrador was beset 65 km east of Cape Fisher NU. She freed herself in both instances. Labrador refitted. Cruised Eastern Arctic, made reconnaissance, ports and track sounding surveys.
  • 1956 Capt. T.C. Pullen, RCN, In Command. Hydrologist in Charge (HIC) M. Bolton.
    • Oceanographic work on Gulf of St. Lawrence 20 February to 16 April.
    • Third Arctic cruise; 5 July through 13 October.
    • Cruised Eastern Arctic made track sounding, DEW Line and landing site surveys.
    • Capt. T.C. Pullen, RCN, In Command. Hydrologist in Charge (HIC) M.Bolton.
    • Capt T.C. Pullen, RCN, sailed Labrador on a survey expedition of the Northwest Passage and recovered the anchors of HMS Fury. (Note: Capt Pullen later retired and was the Canadian government representative in SS Manhattan, during the supertanker's historic transit of the Northwest Passage in 1969.)
  • 1957
    • A Bell HTL-4 helicopter, (SN 202), from Labrador crashed on Peter Point, York Sound Frobisher Bay. All crewmen survived. She escorted a US Coast Guard Squadron through Bellot Strait and Eastern Arctic. (Partial Transit), Capt T.C. Pullen RCN, In Command . Cruised Eastern Arctic and Bellot Strait, made various surveys.
    • In November Cdr C.A. Law, DSC, RCN took command.
  • 1958 Paid off for refit, transferred to Department of Transport (DOT). Commissioned as Canadian Government Ship (CGS) Labrador, based in Dartmouth NS.
  • 1959
  • 1960
  • 1961 Labrador.
  • 1962 Renamed CCGS Labrador in the Canadian Coast Guard. Cruised Smith Sound between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, made detailed survey.
  • 1963
  • 1964 Capt N.V. Clarke, CCG, took Labrador up Kennedy Channel NU, between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, to reach the most northerly position ever attained by any Canadian ship at the time. This position, in 81 deg. 45 min. North latitude, is only 60 nautical miles (111 km) from Alert. Cruised Eastern Arctic and made various surveys.
  • 1965
  • 1966 25 November 1966 to 26 December 1966 Labrador, Canadian icebreaking cable layer CCGS John Cabot (later CS Certamen), CCGS N.B. McClean and USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281) sailed to Thule, Greenland to repair the BMEWS-W cable which connected Thule to NORAD. John Cabot was contracted by Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (COTC).
  • 1967
  • 1968
  • 1969
  • 1970 Cruised Eastern Arctic, Douglas Harbour QC, Coats Island NU, Eqe Bay NU, Parry Bay BC and made reconnaissance for ports and track sounding surveys.
  • 1971
  • 1972 In September Capt G.S. Yarn, CCG, transited Bellot Strait with Labrador, MV Theta was under escort, but the conditions in Queen Maud Gulf precluded passage to Cambridge Bay and the mission was aborted. During the voyage CCGS Labrador assisted CCGS Norman MacLeod Rogers off of a shoal near Little Cornwallis Island in August. In November CCGS Labrador again assisted CCGS Norman McLeod Rogers with the tow of MV Northern Shell from Deception Bay QC. The tanker had sustained rudder damage and was towed from the Arctic to a shipyard.CCGS Labrador returned to Dartmouth NS on 29 November.
  • 1973 Cruised McDougall Sound NU, Deception Bay in Hudson Strait NU and surveyed wharf facility.
  • 1974
  • 1975
  • 1976
  • 1977
  • 1978
  • 1979 In September Labrador searched the waters of Beechey Island, NU for the 1853 wreck of HMS Breadalbane. The location was later verified and explored (1980) by CCGS John A. Macdonald, Capt Steven Gomes, CCG, Master. Subsequent research (1981) was done by CCGS Pierre Radisson, Capt Pelland, CCG, Master.
  • 1980
  • 1981
  • 1982
  • 1983
  • 1984
  • 1985
  • 1986
  • 1987 Paid off from service and scrapped. Replaced by CCGS Henry Larsen. Henry Larsen was later transferred to Newfoundland.


  2. ^ "Pogo Outaouais Branch of the Navy League of Canada". 
  3. ^ Royal Canadian Navy 1950s

External links[edit]