Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil
The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan Through the Northwest Passage
Format: Paper and electronic
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. The Manhattan 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.
Ross Coen works at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has published numerous articles on Alaska and arctic history in the Northern Review, Alaska Magazine, Alaska History, and other publications.
"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."
—Shelagh D Grant, author of Polar Imperative
"For close to a thousand years, mankind has sent explorers north to find shorter sea
routes between the continents. The resources of the Arctic are drawing shippers now—for
oil and gas, minerals and tourism. Ross Coen's thrilling account of the voyages of
the SS Manhattanforetell today's challenges and opportunities."
—Mead Treadwell, Lt. Governor of Alaska and former chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commision
"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."
"Coen’s story shines as he describes the incredible natural barriers that literally
held the huge ship back and the determination of her crew to get her to Prudhoe Bay."
"Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil is an informative, accessible, and enjoyable read. Those interested in Arctic and
Alaskan histories will undoubtedly find much to enjoy in Coen’s detailed and personable
narrative, while scholars of northern and transportation histories will recognize
important linkages to contemporary northern affairs."
"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."
—Fairbanks Daily News-Miner