The Oil tanker SS Manhattan (1962). This miniature model in a scale of 1:1250 was built by the CSC workshop and is on display on deck 9 of the museum.
The SS „Manhattan“ was a ship that made history. When she was built in 1962 at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, her only record was to be the largest merchant ship ever built in the USA. But the discovery of oil deposits in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in the 1950s was to change her fate.
The question was raised whether transporting this oil by sea would be cheaper than building a pipeline. The „Manhattan“ was to explore this possibility and thus became the first merchant ship ever to cross the Northwest Passage. In 1968, her owners Esso and the Finnish company Wärtsilä teamed up to convert the supertanker into an icebreaker. The project took place at Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Chester. The ship was heavily modified, most notably receiving an icebreaker bow. The “Manhattan” left her drydock in August 1969 and hit the first ice off Baffin Island in September. When she reached McClure Strait, she broke all records by breaking through a huge cape of 20 cm thick ice at a speed of 10 knots. But eventually the ship got stuck and had to be freed by an escort of US and Canadian icebreakers with helicopter support. Using a southern alternative route, the „Manhattan“ reached Prudhoe Bay on 19 September, from where it brought back a single symbolic barrel of oil. History was written. A year later, the „Manhattan“ tried to cross the Northwest Passage in winter and failed. The project to build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was subsequently deemed more economical.
The performance of the „Manhattan“ triggered a diplomatic conflict between the USA, which considers the Northwest Passage an international waterway, and Canada, which considers it its territorial waters. The melting of the Arctic ice sheet due to global warming has reactivated this conflict in recent years.
The oil tanker SS „Manhattan“ remained the only merchant ship ever to transit the Northwest Passage until the freighter „Camilla Desgangés“ did the same in 2008. The „Manhattan“ remained in service until she was sunk by Typhoon Thelma in South Korean waters in 1987. Her wreck was eventually salvaged and taken to China for dismantling.