Ice Patrol increases visibility with inclusion at aquarium's Titanic exhibit

Visitors to the Mystic Aquarium Thursday view the International Ice Patrol gallery that is part of the "Titanic: 12,450 Feet Down" exhibit.
Visitors to the Mystic Aquarium Thursday view the International Ice Patrol gallery that is part of the "Titanic: 12,450 Feet Down" exhibit. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Mystic - The Titanic exhibit at Mystic Aquarium has a new postscript, the story of the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol.

The aquarium recently expanded its permanent exhibit, "Titanic - 12,450 Feet Below," to include a gallery about the New London-based Ice Patrol, which monitors iceberg danger near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and warns mariners of the risk of iceberg collision. The Ice Patrol was formed after the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912.

Cmdr. Lisa Mack, the commander of the unit, said while walking through the aquarium on Thursday that the new addition shows how "the great loss of life was not in vain" because it caused the world's major maritime powers to work together to improve maritime safety.

"It's a great story to tell," she said.

In response to the Titanic disaster, the maritime powers convened the first meeting of the International Conference on the Safety of Life at Sea in London in 1913. The conference helped lay the groundwork for the Ice Patrol.

Many people do not know about the Ice Patrol, even within the Coast Guard, because it is a small, unique unit, Mack said. Sixteen people are currently assigned to it.

About 200,000 people each year hear about their mission through media reports, documentaries and community relations events, Mack estimated. On Thursday alone, 1,400 school children went to the aquarium. About 750,000 people visit each year.

"It's great visibility for the Coast Guard," Mack said. "Our hope is that people find it interesting and learn something about our service."

Andy Wood, vice president of marketing for the Sea Research Foundation, the aquarium's parent organization, said the setup of the Titanic exhibit may change in the future, but the Ice Patrol will now forever be a part of it in some way.

Bob Leonard of Torrington perused the facts and figures posted about the Ice Patrol on Thursday while visiting the aquarium with a friend. He said he didn't know the Coast Guard has a unit that tracks icebergs.

"I had no idea we were putting that much work and resources into that," he said. "I don't plan to be out where there are any icebergs, but I'm glad they are."

The Ice Patrol has a perfect record - not one ship that has heeded its warnings has collided with an iceberg.

The gallery features artifacts on loan from the Coast Guard, including an aircraft door that "ice observers" looked out of to spot icebergs, an oceanographic drifter buoy and an instrument to collect water samples. The Coast Guard is celebrating the centennial anniversary of the International Ice Patrol this year.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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