As the number of ships off Alaska's Arctic coast increases due to oil development, shipping and tourism, the Coast Guard is ramping up efforts to create its own Arctic fleet. The federal agency is searching for a versatile patrol vessel that is tough enough to tackle extreme cold and sea ice, but small enough to fit into a C-130 cargo plane.
The first is the Arktos craft, a 32-ton, 50-foot long joystick controlled, diesel-powered machine that has hydraulic-operated tracks for uneven ground and jet propulsion for the water. Six of the $3-million vehicles are already in use at oil rigs around the U.S., according to Bruce Seligman, inventor of the craft. The company's website claims that the vehicle can withstand "crushing forces from vast ice flow formations."
The second vehicle, the Amphib Alaska, built by Tyler Rentals in Ketchikan, Alaska, was completed just days before being shown off, and was built specifically for the Coast Guard demonstration. It is much smaller, just 8 tons, and 21 feet long. It has the same type of tracks and power structure as the Arktos, but it also features a boat-like hull that allows the tracks to retract for flotation.
Shannon Jenkins of the Coast Guard's office told Popular Mechanics that they are uncertain whether they'll purchase either vehicle, but that the test were a great start to figuring out the makeup of the Coast Guard's eventual Arctic fleet.