Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil

The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage

Ross Coen

Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil

Ross Coen

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

215 pages | 25 halftones, 2 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Paper $24.95 ISBN: 9781602231696 Published April 2012
E-book $7.00 to $24.95 ISBN: 9781602231702 Published April 2012

In 1969, an icebreaking tanker, the SS Manhattan, was commissioned by Humble Oil to transit the Northwest Passage in order to test the logistical and economic feasibility of an all-marine transportation system for Alaska North Slope crude oil. Proposed as an alternative to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the Manhattan made two voyages to the North American Arctic and collected volumes of scientific data on ice conditions and the behavior of ships in ice. Although the Manhattan successfully navigated the Northwest Passage—closing a five-hundred-year chapter of Arctic exploration by becoming the first commercial vessel to do so—the expedition ultimately demonstrated the impracticality of moving crude oil using icebreaking ships.
Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil details this historic voyage, establishing its significant impact on the future of marine traffic and resource development in the Arctic and setting the stage for the current oil crisis.

Foreword by Lawson Brigham

1. Strike at Prudhoe Bay State No. 1
2. No Cream Puff
3. Submarines, Blimps, Trains, and Ships
4. "Bienvenu dans ces eaux. Welcome to Canadian waters."
5. A Floating Laboratory
6. In the Passage
7. Through the Passage
8. What Did the Manhattan Prove?
9. Round-trip

Review Quotes
Joe E. LaRocca | Anchorage Daily News
"[Coen] has plucked a rare gem from the dust bin of Alaska’s relatively brief but colorful petroleum history and endowed it with a fresh voice that speaks to a new generation of adherents largely unaware of its historic genesis....Prof. Coen’s book is arguably the most important book written by an Alaska author on any subject. It’s a must read for anyone dealing with or engaged in the far-reaching implications of the overarching state, national and international issues it explores."
Shelagh D. Grant, author of Polar Imperative

“A great read—well organized, well written, and fully referenced—providing many lesser known details about SS Manhattan’s history and the role it played in the Alaska pipeline debate.”

Arctic Sounder
“As the discussion of marine travel in the Arctic continues to ramp up, the release of Fairbanks’ author Ross Coen’s newest book couldn’t be timelier.”
Daily News-Miner
“In Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil, Fairbanks-based historian Ross Coen recounts the voyage of the Manhattan and places it in the larger context of the heady early days of Alaska’s entry into the world oil market. The result is a fascinating look at what happens when politics, big business, and technology dovetail to accomplish what has never been done before.”
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