Viking Pumps Used in 1941 Icebreaker Ship

Company News
November 16, 2021

Viking Pumps have been used for decades on marine vessels and aircraft across the globe. Recognized as a trusted leader and innovator, Viking’s durable pumps built many years ago are still used on some ships today.

While on a trip with family to Michigan, a Viking Pump colleague visited the USCGC Mackinaw Icebreaker. After returning to the office, she was curious and discovered that nine Viking pumps were installed on the ship in 1941. The pumps ranged in function from diesel fuel transfer and lube oil transfer, to pressure lubrication.

“When I stepped foot on the deck of the Icebreaker, my intuition told me I was standing on a piece of treasured history, not just from World War II, but also from Viking Pump,” Marketing Coordinator Robyn Watson said.

After returning to the office, Robyn partnered with another team member and quickly located the 1945 Spring edition of the “Viking Vacuum” publication. Take a look at an excerpt from the publication below:

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

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Congress approved the construction of the Mackinaw, to help forge paths for transport ships and break 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.

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

Displayed to the right is a ZHLH pump – a pump so old that nobody at Viking Pump has even heard of it. There were six of these pumps aboard the Mackinaw for pressure lubrication of the propeller bearings. The propellers played a critical role in the breaking of large sheets of ice.

According to an 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.”

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


Displayed below are the AJ281 lube oil transfer pump (Left) and the model LQ281 unit (right), which were both used for the engine of the ship. Lube oil is key in heat control, contamination control, rust prevention, and energy transfer.

Due to the size of the engine, fuel and lubricant were essential in keeping the ship going. These mission-critical roles were entrusted to Viking pumps.

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.

Weighing in at over 5,200 tons with a length of 290 feet, the Mackinaw worked faithfully for 62 years before retiring in 2006. Since then, it’s been converted to a museum.

To learn of other interesting places where Viking Pumps are being used, click here. 

[1] Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum History (
The Ice Breaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum docked in Mackinaw City, MI
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