Northwest Passage Open for Business?

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  09.18.07 | 12:30 PM ET

imageWhen we picked the Northwest Passage as one of our Seven Wonders of the Shrinking Planet, we didn’t anticipate just how apt the “shrinking” moniker would be. The AP is reporting that the Arctic ice has reached its lowest-ever recorded level, meaning that a navigable passage could be open much sooner than previously predicted.

The passage is now ice-free, but is expected to freeze again with the arrival of winter. The question for international shipping purposes—and future travelers—is when it will begin to stay open year-round, or at least become a stable, predictable seasonal route. Previous estimates had ranged as late as 2080, but new satellite images of the melting ice have some scientists reassessing that. Mark Serreze, of the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, gave his best guess in a LiveScience story: “The notion of coming to an ice free Arctic Ocean even by 2030 is not totally unreasonable.”

Meanwhile, Canada, Russia, the United States and Denmark continue to jockey for position in the region. Russian scientists recently planted a flag on the ocean floor below the ice pack, and the Canadian government is moving ahead with plans to increase Canada’s military presence in the high Arctic, building a new deep-water port and acquiring a fleet of ice-breakers to patrol the passage.

At least one Canadian commentator opposes the military build-up, calling instead for the government to stake Canada’s claim by creating a string of “marine protected areas” through the region. “Our claim to the Arctic must go deeper than soldiers on the tundra and anemic icebreakers crunching what is left of our melting seascape,” Sabine Jessen wrote in the Globe and Mail. “It must be based on more than our greed over potential oil reserves. Our claim to the Arctic must also prove a ‘Canadianism’—a place we cherish and protect, defending that true north so it remains strong and free—and wild.”

Photo of the Arctic Sea by wili_hybrid, via Flickr (Creative Commons).


Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.


17 Comments for Northwest Passage Open for Business?

Dr Larry Myers 09.20.07 | 10:19 AM ET

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mike 01.31.08 | 11:42 AM ET

Marine protected areas is the best idea in my opinion for the arctic, Russia planting a flag is like the USA saying we own the moon for planting a flag. Maybe I should get a small business loan have a couple of flags made and drop them off on each deserted island in the Mediterranean that I come across and claim it my own. Sorry I just can’t imagine what they are thinking about planting a flag to claim land / open waters theirs. Canada should have more say in the passage and arctic and what happens with it, but with international help.

Footballer 02.09.08 | 1:06 PM ET

The growing number of entrepreneurs can hold it within existing margins, I bet, in the following 10 years there will be no place unreachable for business.

Glamurnenko 02.10.08 | 4:03 PM ET

Thx for the article!

jefrey 02.10.08 | 4:13 PM ET

I hope it won’t hurt the ecology!

Free Articles 02.10.08 | 4:15 PM ET

It is good that someone writes articles which really matters something. Thank you for this article, itís full of knowledge which is hard to find in tons of rubbish in our famous world wide web. Regards and good luck!

trade show displays 02.22.08 | 5:21 PM ET

Great article! But i hope it doesn’t harm the enviroment.

Berry Tree 03.08.08 | 5:37 PM ET

Algore was right. The ice IS melting.

Article Writer 03.29.08 | 8:24 AM ET

Oh no, there are such a few places human haven\‘t spoiled, it was one of them…

canada business 03.31.08 | 12:46 AM ET

Current estimates show that the melting ice could be even earlier than 2030, which is scary.

Canadian Business Brokers 04.05.08 | 4:06 PM ET

I see no frontiers to business expansion, however I do believe that business has to be conducted responsively. There is definitely a monetary cost to protect our arctics in the short term but the social and financial rewards in the long term outweigh the cost by far. Smart business people must understand that making short term profits at the cost of our well-being and our children’s well-being is silly.

Lunatic 04.07.08 | 11:58 AM ET

The problem of thawing of ices is now very actual. The main thing that all these actions have not worsened position.

Alex 04.11.08 | 6:45 PM ET

Very interesting post! Many thanks to the author, I have learned a lot of the new information.

Kichigai-san 06.18.08 | 10:12 AM ET

Well, i guess it’s rather a good idea to build up a new deep-water port. But it would be better, if the other countries are involved in it. I just don’t mean the ideal variant-the case of all-over-the-world countries’ “co-operation”, but at least the world’s dominant ones. it’s really a global problem, i think.

Lena 06.27.08 | 2:07 PM ET

Instead of playing word games about global warming, the BUSH administration should have been trying to establish climate regulations.

davidc 07.23.08 | 5:44 PM ET

“Canada, Russia, the United States and Denmark continue to jockey for position in the region.”

Hmm… that will never change.

Rathna 10.23.08 | 9:17 AM ET

I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are putting very good effort into the stuff you post. Keep up the good work.

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