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DNR Icebreaker to Free Frozen Tangier Island

Ice breaking missionThe largest icebreaker in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources fleet will make an out-of-state house call Saturday to free the frozen residents of Virginia’s Tangier Island.

DNR’s 100-foot vessel, J. Millard Tawes, will divert from its duties keeping the shipping channel clear between Crisfield and Smith Island to attack the glacier that has enveloped Tangier, a Chesapeake Bay island 12 miles from the mainland that is part of Accomack County, Va.

John Gallagher, director of DNR’s hydrographic operations, said he received a call for assistance Thursday morning from Tangier Mayor James Eskridge after a Coast Guard icebreaker broke down. Gallagher said he expects the Tawes will arrive early Saturday morning to break ice and then escort the ferry boat Sharon Kay III to Crisfield. The plan is weather dependent.

Tangier is a little more than one square mile and has a population of slightly more than 700 residents.

“In the past we have been happy to assist the people of Tangier Island when a Coast Guard cutter was not available,” Gallagher said. “We are happy to be a good Chesapeake Bay neighbor again.”

The Tawes is one of four vessels in DNR’s icebreaking operation that works on concert with the U.S. Coast Guard to keep commerce moving on the bay and its tributaries and fuel and supplies flowing to isolated communities.