For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
HMCS LABRADOR 50
Then CGS LABRADOR
Then CCGS LABRADOR
Laid down in the Marine Industries shipyard in Sorrel, Quebec, in January, 1949, she was 369 feet long, 63 feet, 6 inches at the beam, and displaced 6,490 tons. Powered by six 2,000 horsepower diesel engines, she was capable of 16 knots. Deep-drafted and round-bottomed, with big screws tucked away well below the plimsoll line out of reach of tumbling surface ice, she was fitted with retractable stabilizing fins and heeling tanks on the port and starboard sides capable of pumping water from side to side at the remarkable rate of 40,000 gallons a minute, allowing her to roll in pack ice. With a crew of 225 officers and men and three helicopters, the Labrador was not simply an ice-breaker. She was commissioned to patrol northern waters and show the flag, conduct hydrographic and scientific surveys and provide a rescue and salvage service. On 23 Jul 1954 she sailed from Halifax on her maiden voyage and became the first warship to negotiate the Northwest Passage and, returning to Halifax on 21 Nov 1954 via the Panama Canal, the first to circumnavigate North America. In 1955 Canada and the USA began construction on the DEW line and HMCS Labrador's task was to chart and clear the passage in the Foxe Basin area so that equipment and supplies could be taken ashore by landing craft. In 1956, Labrador returned to the Arctic and during her time there aided the American ice breaker Edisto and getting a supply convoy from the Foxe Basin to the Bellot Strait. During this transit, the Edisto, which had become icebound and broke a screw, was rescued by HMCS Labrador. In Mar/Apr 1957, HMCS Labrador made a rare trip across the Atlantic and visited Portsmouth, Oslo and Copenhagen to show the flag. In the fall of 1957 three US Coast Guard Cutter, Storis, Bramble and Spar, were transiting the Northwest Passage. Due to the uncertainty of having a clear passage through the Bellot Strait, HMCS Labrador rendezvoused with the US squadron on the western end of the Bellot Strait, which turned out to be ice free, and escorted them through. Due to cost cutting measures for the RCN, Labrador was paid off for refit on 22 Nov 1957 and transferred to the Department of Transport. After that she was primarily used as an icebreaker in the St. Lawrence and embarked scientists for summer studies in the Arctic. She was sold for scrap in 1987 and broken up in 1989.