STURGEON BAY - U.S. Coast Guard Commander John Stone and his crew of 22 on the cutter "Mobile Bay" have the daunting job of breaking through near-record thick ice in Sturgeon Bay. The work will allow ships to start moving after a winter of hibernation.
"Getting the shipping industry moving with all the goods they're carrying. Coal iron ore fuel grain," said Stone.
Last year, more than 90 million tons of product moved through the Great Lakes.
The James Oberstar is scheduled to leave this week. If this were a normal year, the Oberstar would get to Lake Michigan through Green Bay. But because the ice is so thick, it's going to have to turn around in Sturgeon Bay and go south. Monday's mission was to not only clear a path to Lake Michigan, but also to create a turning basin so the Oberstar and other ships can turn around.
Jason Stanko with the Coast Guard said, "Without us breaking a path out here or carving this turning basin there's no way they'd even be able to leave the pier."
More than 90 percent of the Great Lakes is covered in ice, the most in 35 years.
Aerial footage shows how much work is ahead for the Coast Guard's fleet of ice breakers as the shipping season begins.
The best way to get through the ice is to ram into it with the Mobile Bay's 670 tons of weight.