Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013



Last week, a ship called the Nordic Orion accomplished what dozens of Europeans explorers have been attempting to do for 500 years.  The Danish-owned cargo ship sailed the elusive Northwest Passage above North America, thus connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  It was a bit dangerous around Baffin Island, where the cargo ship passed hull after hull of wrecked and frozen three-masted schooners from previous, failed expeditions.

Okay...we here at the DUNER BLOG made that last part up.  But we did so the make a point.  People have been trying to sail through the treacherous Northwest Passage for a long, long time.  From Henry Hudson in the 1500's to George Vancouver in the 1800's, many sailors have tried and/or died in vain.   But don't feel bad about John Cabot or Captain Cook.  The Nordic Orion's accomplishment last week has nothing to do with exploration and everything to do with Global Warming.

While people in the lower latitudes debate whether or not the Arctic Ice Shield is shrinking, people like Edward Coll think differently.  They know it is occurring.  As the CEO of Bulk Partners, (the owners of the famed cargo ship) Coll wanted to make history as well as save money.  Let's check out the stats.  The 73,500-ton load of coal traveled from Vancouver to Finland.  The shortcut through the Arctic Ocean shaved 1,500 nautical miles...about five days...off the voyage.  This meant a savings of nearly $200,000 in costs.  In addition, the ship was able to carry about 25 percent more coal since the depth of the Panama Canal is too shallow for such a heavy load.

But don't count on any fleets of cargo ships passing by Baffin Island anytime soon.  There are many, many complex issues and problems with making the Northwest Passage a heavily traveled route.  First of all, there is not a single port along the route.  If a ship has a mechanical failure, they are likely to meet the same fate as Henry Hudson.  (He was frozen alive.)  Environmentalists will remind us about the Selendang Ayu.  This Malaysian cargo ship lost power in 2004 and crashed on the Aleutian Islands, causing extensive damage.  Not to mention the touchy subject of Arctic sovereignty...

Rest assured, as long as there is a profit to be made, the Northwest Passage will become a viable shipping route in years to come.  However, the real winner in this whole debate, is the Arctic Ocean itself.  Always in the shadow of his bigger brothers, Pacific, Atlantic and Indian, life has been tough on the forgotten body of water.  It's true, the Arctic Ocean fails to appear on most maps.  Heck, neglected Arctic Ocean isn't even included in the Seven Seas!  Well, friends, those days will soon be over.  In  twenty years...when 15% more ice melts...the Arctic Ocean coastline will be dramatically different.  It will be dotted with thriving ports, cruise ships, and ...of course... a Hard Rock Café!  Just you wait...

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