Viking at the Museum: The Ice Breaker Mackinaw

By Robyn Watson, Marketing Coordinator at Viking Pump

I have worked for Viking Pump for three years and I have learned three things so far:

  1. Viking Pump is old. Over 110 years old. It has been around for a long time
  2. Viking pumps last a long time. Our oldest known running pump has been operating for 64 years and still going!
  3. Viking Pumps are EVERWHERE (and are on every continent in the world)

That’s why when I stepped foot on the deck of the Ice Breaker Mackinaw on a recent family vacation, I knew I was standing on a piece of treasured history, not just from World War II, but also from Viking Pump.


The Mackinaw Icebreaker Ship

On December 17, 1941- just 10 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor- the United States Congress approved the construction of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw WAGB-83. The purpose of the ship was to forge a path for transport ships by breaking up thick ice that formed on the Great Lakes during frigid winter months. This allowed iron ore, limestone, and coal to be transported keeping vital war materials in production[1].

Weighing in at over 5,200 tons with a length of 290 feet, the Mackinaw needed 276,000 gallons of diesel fuel to endure winter seasons. Mackinaw worked faithfully for 62 years before retiring in 2006 at which point it became the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.

But are there really Viking Pumps aboard this great old ship just as my intuition suggested?

The Mackinaw in the early years

Credit to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes | Bowling Green State University…

Viking Pumps on the Mackinaw

Upon my return to the office, I eagerly grabbed the ear of resident pump expert, Chad Wunderlich, “Do you know if there are any Viking pumps on the ice breaker Mackinaw?”

“Let me check,” Chad responded.

A mere thirty minutes later, Chad presented me with an article dating back to 1945, previously published in the Viking Vacuum (a historical Viking Pump publication).

Viking Vacuum 1945 The Mackinaw

Figure 1- Excerpt from the Spring 1945 edition of Viking Vacuum


In the article, the installation of nine total pumps was described on the Ice Breaker Mackinaw. The pumps ranged in function from diesel fuel transfer and lube oil transfer, to pressure lubrication.

Figure 2- Lube oil pump used near propellers

Figure 2- A ZHLH vertical Viking pump unit for pressure lubrication of propeller bearings

Figure 2 displays a ZHLH. This pump is so old that nobody I asked at Viking Pump has even heard of it. There were six of these pumps aboard the Mackinaw at the time it was built.

The propellers played a critical role in the breaking of large sheets of ice. According to the Ice Breaker Mackinaw fact sheet, “The Mackinaw’s innovative 12’ bow propeller – weighing 7.2 tons – draws water from under the ice causing it to weaken and sag under its own weight and then, when crushed by the force and the weight of the ship, sends it streaming along both sides of the ship reducing friction.[2]

With the propellers’ significant role in breaking ice and maintaining a clear path across the lakes, keeping bearings lubricated was of upmost importance.


Figure 3 and 5- diesel transfer pumps used on the Mackinaw

Figure 3 (left)- AJ281 Viking Lube Oil Transfer pump unit with steel casing and head, and Bronze interior parts
Figure 4 (right)- Model LQ281 all bronze Diesel fuel transfer unit.


Figure 3 (the AJ281 lube oil transfer pump) and Figure 4 (a model LQ281 unit) were both utilized for the engine of the ship. An engine this size requires two very important things: fuel and lubricant. These crucial roles were entrusted to Viking pumps.

The importance of having reliable lube oil supply on board the Mackinaw should not be understated; Lube oil is key in heat control, contamination control, rust prevention, and energy transfer.

I think it’s important to emphasize how mission-critical this service is when you’re the only ship out there, cutting the shipping lane rather than being a ship that uses it (though many of those were likely fitted with Viking pumps too).


The Takeaway

All in all, there have been thousands of Viking pumps built for marine vessels around the world. Whether you’re patrolling the ocean or trying to break ice on the Great Lakes amidst a war, you want to be certain that your equipment isn’t going to let you down. That’s why Viking Pump was the choice in 1945 and why it’s still the best choice in 2021.

Interested in seeing more Viking pumps at museums? Check out a longer list on our previous post Viking Pumps at the Museum and see what you can fit in to your next vacation!

Ice Breaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum

The Ice Breaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum docked in Mackinaw City, MI

About the Author

Photo of Robyn Watson

Robyn Watson is the Marketing Coordinator for Viking Pump. She joined Viking Pump in 2018 and has since helped evolve online engagement along with trade show coordination. Her background is entirely in marketing but delights in historical knowledge and going to museums.




[1] Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum History (

[2] IM-Fact-Sheet-2.2011.pdf (



Viking Pump® is a global leader in positive displacement pumping solutions. With 100+ years of application experience solving their customers’ needs daily, Viking Pump offers internal gear pump, external gear pump, and vane pump solutions. Additionally, accessories, parts and kits round out the offerings to support customers full systems and keep the liquid flowing. Viking pumps are distributed globally through factory trained stocking distributors. Find one near you by visiting