Searched for by mariners since the 15th century, the legendary Northwest Passage across the Arctic Ocean appears to have opened up again, according to satellite pictures from the European Space Agency. Satellite measurements of Arctic sea ice began less than 30 years ago. The Northwest Passage is a shipping route between Europe and Asia. The route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is shorter than using the Panama Canal.
To some this will be seen as more evidence of man-made global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels. To others it is more evidence of natural climate variability – the route was open during previous warm periods when man was not burning fossil fuels.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amunsden proved that the route was navigable in 1906, after a 3-year expedition. Since that time, only ice breaking ships have been able to get through.
A word of caution though for anyone planning an historic solo trip from this article in Australia’s Herald Sun:
A BRITISH yachtsman attempting the first solo Arctic sea passage across northern Russia was examining his options after heavier than expected ice blocked his route, his manager said.
Adrian Flanagan is discussing with Russian authorities the possibility of using a nuclear-powered icebreaker to lift his boat out of the water and carry it round the most icebound stretch of Russia’s Northern Sea Route.
“Basically it just means we’re putting plan B into operation so if the worst comes to the worst and there isn’t a break in the weather, we’ve got a plan,” Louise Flanagan, his manager and ex-wife said from Britain.
The 46-year-old entered the eastern end of the treacherous sea route that stretches from Asia to Europe across northern Russia in late July.
He had hoped that his 11m reinforced yacht would be able to get all the way to Europe due to lighter ice conditions observed in recent years, thought to be a result of global warming.