Northwest Passage opens
The Northwest Passage is a series of interconnected waterways among ice-encrusted islands. Covered with 2-metre-thick sea ice through the winter, it becomes more or less accessible to ships during the summer months. The old dream of a direct route between Europe and Asia is the attraction of this northerly passage; the passage is 9000 km shorter than the Panama Canal route and 17 000 km shorter than that around Cape Horn.An open Northwest passage has extensive ramifications - both for commerce and militarily. Besides the opportunity for passage there are the natural resources to harvest.This is big news and definitely has consequences for overseas shipping and rail traffic in the Americas.Phelps
Arctic ice melt opens Northwest Passage
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press WriterSat Sep 15, 6:44 PM ET
Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.
The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.
The waters are exposing unexplored resources, and vessels could trim thousands of miles from Europe to Asia by bypassing the Panama Canal. The seasonal ebb and flow of ice levels has already opened up a slim summer window for ships.
Leif Toudal Pedersen, of the Danish National Space Center, said that Arctic ice has shrunk to some 1 million square miles. The previous low was 1.5 million square miles, in 2005.
"The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected," Pedersen said in an ESA statement posted on its Web site Friday.
Pedersen said the extreme retreat this year suggested the passage could fully open sooner than expected but ESA did not say when that might be. Efforts to contact ESA officials in Paris and Noordwik, the Netherlands, were unsuccessful Saturday.
A U.N. panel on climate change has predicted that polar regions could be virtually free of ice by the summer of 2070 because of rising temperatures and sea ice decline, ESA noted.
Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States are among countries in a race to secure rights to the Arctic that heated up last month when Russia sent two small submarines to plant its national flag under the North Pole. A U.S. study has suggested as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden in the area.
Environmentalists fear increased maritime traffic and efforts to tap natural resources in the area could one day lead to oil spills and harm regional wildlife.
Until now, the passage has been expected to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multiyear ice pack sea ice that remains through one or more summers, ESA said.
Researcher Claes Ragner of Norway's Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which works on Arctic environmental and political issues, said for now, the new opening has only symbolic meaning for the future of sea transport.
"Routes between Scandinavia and Japan could be almost halved, and a stable and reliable route would mean a lot to certain regions," he said by phone. But even if the passage is opening up and polar ice continues to melt, it will take years for such routes to be regular, he said.
"It won't be ice-free all year around and it won't be a stable route all year," Ragner said. "The greatest wish for sea transportation is streamlined and stable routes."
"Shorter transport routes means less pollution if you can ship products from A to B on the shortest route," he said, "but the fact that the polar ice is melting away is not good for the world in that we're losing the Arctic and the animal life there."
The opening observed this week was not the most direct waterway, ESA said. That would be through northern Canada along the coast of Siberia, which remains partially blocked.
Associated Press Writer Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.
On the Net:
- The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean along the ... passages from the Northwest Coast and confirmed that there was no such passage ...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage - 72k - Cached
- Adventure outfitters offering diverse tours worldwide including sea kayaking, rafting, mountaineering, polar expeditions, Antarctic trips, and more.www.nwpassage.com - 39k - Cached
- Online resources about the quest for the Northwest Passage, the sea route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Includes profiles of explorers and ships, maps of ...www.athropolis.com/links/nwpass.htm - 12k - Cached
- Maps of the Northwest Passage. Modern day northwest passage routes and routes by Roald Amundsen ... The Northwest Passage is a famous sea route linking the ...www.athropolis.com/map9.htm - 14k - Cached
- Offers Canadian literature information, with title and author features.www.nwpassages.com - 34k - Cached
- ... took two ships to search for the elusive Northwest Passage from 1845 to 1848. ... Exploration of the Northwest Passage, Canadian Arctic Profiles, Canada's Digital ...www.cbc.ca/news/background/northwest-passage - 37k - Cached
- Blending Stereolab's mathematical crispness with the hypnotism of Tortoise and ... BBC Online. sign up on our mailing list -> The Northwest Passage Festival ©2004 ...www.northwestpassagefestival.com - 10k - Cached
- Northwest Passage: historical sea passage of the North American continent, ... The Northwest Passage. from the Arctic article. The northern passages ...www.britannica.com/eb/article-9056285/Northwest-Passage - 55k - Cached
- Dear Phelps, An Icelandic Great Uncle of mine (My Maternal Grandmother is from Iceland) made the Northwest Passage trip east to west with Roal Amundson aboard the Goya (a Danish sailing ship)My buddy Butch Wheat sailed as Boatswain in the S.S.Manhattan (an S.I.U. tanker) sometime in the early sixties when that ship made the transit..I have transited ice when I was Boatswain in a Victory ship in 1965. The USCG Eastwind led our ship to Antarctica....God Bless, OBIE
- Members and Friends,From September 2007 we have discussed the "Northwest Passage." and its ramifications for shipping to and from Europe and the Pacific Rim.See:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PMMC-NLUS/msearch?query=Northwest+Passage&submit=Search&charset=windows-1252 for previous posts.At our March 10, 2008 luncheon aboard the O'BRIEN Capt. Doug Finley, the O'BRIEN's First Mate, showed photographs and charts of his two sailboat adventures through the Northwest Passage.The recent article below brings us up to date on the situation.Would you like to revisit the subject at a luncheon in 2010?Heave Ho!Phelps_________________________________________________________
Melting ice could transform Alaska economy
Sunday, October 18, 2009
(10-18) 04:00 PDT Nome, --
Alaska - Most days in Nome, you're not likely to run into anybody you didn't see at the Breakers Bar on Friday night. More than 500 roadless miles from Anchorage, rugged tundra and frigid Bering Sea waters have a way of discouraging visitors.
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Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/10/18/MNH31A487M.DTL#ixzz0UVOxOjFh