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Like the Manhattan, the Macdonald has a rolling system that shifts the vessel's balance from side to side, freeing it from imprisoning ice. The Canadian ship can also do a heel-and-toe roll, which the tanker—three times its size —cannot. This was the Macdonald's twelfth excursion into the Arctic, and it has never been stuck. Each time ice closed in around the Manhattan, the Macdonald cleared a channel beside the tanker, leaving the Manhattan room to maneuver into the clear.

Once free, the Manhattan set off to make history by attempting to plow through McClure Strait, the unpenetrated gateway to the relatively open water of the Beaufort Sea. The ship churned through 120 miles of ice before encountering a series of polar ridges and a field of thickly compressed ice. Again the call went out to the Macdonald: "Would you please come along our flanks and nibble some ice?"

Fear of Conseouences. The captain finally decided to abandon the McClure challenge, and the ships turned around and headed for the less hazardous Prince of Wales Strait. As the Manhattan cleared the last patch of ice, the crew and guests poured champagne to celebrate. From there, it was only 500 miles of open water to the oilfields at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Even as the tanker was completing the final lap, the enormity of its success was overshadowed by fear of the consequences. In Canada's Parliament, legislators brought pressure on the government to declare the Northwest Passage Canadian territorial waters. Conservationists, too, were apprehensive. They warned that, because of the low annual temperatures, an oil spill in the passage would take decades, perhaps centuries, to dissipate. As for the oilmen at Humble, they were not willing to commit themselves beyond the Manhattan's return trip and another voyage next spring.

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