Sunday, September 16, 2007
Northwest Passage becomes navigable
Yesterday, pictures of the European Space Agency showed that the Northwest Passage became navigable for the first time in modern history: all ice along the path is new ice. Again, would it be a good thing or a bad thing if this thing continued every year?
Incidentally, the Northeast passage "above" Russia remains partially blocked.
Explorers: some history
Europeans were dreaming about a more direct path to the Orient since the 15th century. John Cabot started with the research in 1497. Numerous brave men tried the passage and some of them became trapped in sea ice, e.g. Englishman Octavius in 1762. The Franklin expedition got ice-locked in 1846, too. Robert McClure tried to go through the passage from the West, starting in 1850. His crew got stuck in ice and they had to wait for three years. Fortunately, someone helped them. An even more lucky coincidence was that the saviors came from the East so the surviving McClure folks became the first people who have circumnavigated the Americas.
Explorer John Rae chose a much more amateurish approach, combining smaller ships with some Inuit techniques, and he succeeded. In 1854, he could happily present the bad news about the Franklin expedition to the British fans. In 1906, Roald Amundsen became the first guy who has made it through the passage purely through the sea. Shallow waters he has encountered make his route commercially unpractical.
Time magazine informed that the Northwest Passage was navigable in 1937.
Imagine it will be possible to use this passage soon. Do you think that, regardless of the causes of these changes, the sane Canadians who are not controlled by extreme ideologies will think it is bad news to be getting millions of extra dollars every day from dozens of ships that will save millions of gallons of fuel because the typical route from Europe to Asia will be 9,300 km shorter than one through the Panama Canal? Is it bad news for the big ships to have a choice where to go? If the cargo is food, is it better to go through the tropics or the polar regions?
Let's just understand some extra numbers. Almost 40 vessels use the Panama Canal every day. Each of them spends 9 hours in the canal, carries about 20,000 tons of cargo, consumes thousands of gallons of fuel per hour (please add more accurate figures), and pays over USD 50,000 for using the canal in average. Don't you think that the capacity may be getting saturated? Yes, it may. The current capacity exceeds the designed one by a factor of 3.5 and it is getting too high. What responsible politicians in Canada and elsewhere should primarily be doing is to resolve territorial and legal issues concerning these places that may become pretty relevant soon, instead of working on idiotic global policies that are pretended to prevent the climate at every point of the Earth from changing which is impossible as every sane person knows.
27,500 workers died during various attempts before the Panama Canal, one of the most extensive engineering projects in the history of human civilization, was completed. Now we can have a better alternative for free, without killing a single person. Should we cry, or should we be wisely and happily thinking how to use this Nature's gift? Stephen Harper, do you still have some responsibility and common sense left or are you already controlled by the environmentalist fanatics? What about offering 1/3 of the commercial profit from the passage to the U.N. in exchange for your full territorial rights over there?