It looks like something out of science fiction, a mechanical monster feasting on winter’s icy remains.

It is the Eco Technologies icebreaker, a floating excavator that looks like a flat-bottomed barge with a large boom shovel looming off one end. Two stabilizing arms with round pontoons stick out on either side of the excavator, giving the machine a giant crab or spider-like appearance.

It is a regular spring visitor to Ottawa’s Rideau River where it uses its clawed shovel and 22 ton bulk to smash through the ice. As it bobs and bashes its way up from the river’s mouth it never fails to turn a few heads. “I come from a construction background so I’ve seen lots of loaders and excavators,” says Luc Gagne, Area Manager for Core Roads with the City of Ottawa. “But something that actually floats on water and does that is really, really interesting.”

The City of Ottawa hires the machine each spring to help mitigate flooding. It means workers can use fewer explosives to blast the ice. “It’s a more environmentally friendly process,” says Gagne.

The machine is owned and operated by New Brunswick’s Eco Technologies. They travel throughout Central and Eastern Canada, breaking ice in the winter and dredging and doing other waterway services in the summer.

Former New Brunswick fisherman, Stephane Vienneau, is one of the pilots. With a deft touch the former fisherman uses the excavator to maneuver the front of the boat up over the ice then dropping its bulk down to break chunks free. It’s slower going this year because the ice is thicker than usual. “We had a big, big winter this year. I think it’s going to be an ice age again,” he laughs.

If that’s the case, the excavator looks like a giant dinosaur fighting back.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the amphibious excavator, it’s currently making its way up the Rideau River near the Cummings Bridge, connecting Rideau Street to Montreal Road. Once it reaches the rapids at Strathcona Park it will be done.