North East Passage open for business

The fabled North West Passage, allowing shipping from Asia to Europe to navigate via the Arctic Ocean, is now routinely used. This passage cost the lives of many earlier expeditions. Times have changed, and a century of relentless global warming has loosened the Arctic’s icy grip.

But the North East Passage? In the last week the first ever commercial shipping have conquered this once impregnable divide. The pace of destruction of the Arctic ice mass is accellerating. This September has seen the third smallest Arctic ice mass ever recorded. The other two years? 2007 and 2008.

Regional climatic circumstances meant early 2009 was unusually cold, yet the late summer melt was almost as bad as it’s ever been. The top of our world may be entirely ice-free within the next few years. One estimate calculates this will have the same albedo-altering effect on global warming as 70% of all the fossil fuels burned in the last two centuries.

Should we be worried? Hell yes. Instead, the US, Canada, Russia and Denmark are licking their chops in anticipation of soon having unfettered access to billions of tons of oil deposits beneath what is now sea ice. It’s a mad, mad world.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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6 Responses to North East Passage open for business

  1. Ian says:

    Let’s hope that the lights go out on the headquarters and financiers of these oil cowboys in 2016.

  2. Gary says:

    This is completely inaccurate- Looks like this story was posted without checking any facts- The fact is that the Northeast passage has been used for decades by the old Soviet Union- evidence of its usage during the summer seasons goes back to 1910- see attached link as one example

  3. John Gibbons says:


    had a look at the link you provided, at first glance I think you’re referring to a different route entirely. One of us is completely inaccurate, I’ll grant you that. The Wiki entry includes the following:

    The Bremen-based Beluga Group claimed in 2009 to be the first Western company to attempt to the Northern Sea Route for shipping without assistance from icebreakers, cutting 4000 nautical miles off the journey between Ulsan, Korea and Rotterdam.[3][5]

    The heavy lift vessels Beluga Fraternity and Beluga Foresight did commence a passage of the Northern Sea Route.[4][6] However they were escorted by the Russian nuclear icebreaker 50 Years Since Victory.

    By 12 September 2009, the ships had crossed from South Korea to Siberia.[7] The two ships completed their goal on 19 September 2009.[8] In completing this journey, they were the first commercial vehicles from the Western World to do so.[8]
    Hope this helps clarify.


  4. Gary says:

    Hi John – the links definitely refers to the North East passage – see the opening paragraph on page 2. Pages 9,10 and 11 provide a historical review of maritime activity on the route. Between 1932 and the war the Soviet artic fleet had between 40 and 150 ships per year operating on the route each year. The main activity was commercial. Transporting raw materials.

  5. John Gibbons says:

    Gary, I’ll take a raincheck on this just for the minute, but I certainly will revert, and very much appreciate you fact-checking. If I’m wrong, I have no bother owning up and correcting same – but I still don’t believe this is the case. But rest assured, will make it my business to find out! JG

  6. Rosemarie says:

    That was a wonderful piece – “Time to Pull the plug on the bottled water swindle.” in yesterday’s “Irish Times”

    In an item “More News about Plastic and Cancer” I posted on my website an extract from Daniel Goleman’s Reading the book “Ecological Intelligence – Knowing the Hidden Impact of What We Buy” by Daniel Goleman,
    an extremely valuable book linking us to the environmental and health cost to our purchases, I came across a reference in Chapter 5, p. 57; that the plastic in the bottles (of water) posed potential adverse health impacts from chemicals leaching into the bottled water. The suspected endocrine disrupter BPA (biphenol A, a basic chemical building block of many plastics) spreads into fluids fifty-five times faster than normal if the bottles are filled with boiling hot liquid – a common practice among climbers in cold climates and
    routine with parents putting formula into plastic baby bottles.
    The source quoted is from Scott Belcher “Biphenol-A Is Released from Polycarbonate Drinking Bottles and Mimics the Neurotoxic Actions of Estrogen in Developing Cerebellar Neurons,” -from Toxicology Letters January 30, 2008, pp.149-156.
    This book “Ecological Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman is of major importance, analysing all the factors in the production of consumer items, and enlightening us on how best we can make choices for our health and the health of our planet.
    Published in the UK by Allen Lane, Penguin, 2009, Euro 18.99, Sterling £16.99book
    This news item Posted by Rosemarie Rowley on Jun 26 2009

    The problem of plastic throwaway containers was mentioned in my piece “Private and Public and the Culture of Waste” posted on my website last year.

    with all good wishes for your great work, the research and findings, well done.

    Rosemarie Rowley

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