Opening of the Northwest Passage could reshape global travel

One of the most sought after exploration routes in history, the fabled Northwest Passage, may soon be open to both explorers and vagabonds alike. Of course Roald Amundsen “found” the northwest passage way back in 1903, but the ice pack surrounding the North Pole has traditionally meant that it was navigable for only, at most, a few months a year.

That’s not exactly what all the various explorers throughout the centuries had in mind, but now, thanks to global warming, the northwest passage is well on its way to being a valid travel route. And yes, I’m sure most of us would probably rather the Northwest Passage remain blocked in favor of some good news about climate change, but it appears that that won’t be the case.

Most of the interest in the Northwest Passage is from shipping companies who would love to find a faster way from A to B over the pole. How much faster? Using the Northwest Passage cuts the distance from Japan to the Netherlands (a good average for Europe to Asia sea routes) in half.

But the potential impact of the Northwest Passage goes far beyond shipping. As a recent piece on the Atlantic’s newly redesigned website points out, “with this sea change will come the rise and fall of international seaports, newfound access to nearly a quarter of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas reserves, and a recalibration of geo-strategic power.”

On a more practical level for the average vagabond, the Northwest Passage means several things — a new area to explore and potentially more budget seafaring routes. It could also mean easier access to seldom visited areas like northern Siberia, Norway, Canada and more.

The most notable of those is potential increase in budget seafaring routes. While booking passage on a container ship is more expensive than flying, that may change. Faster, cheaper routes could bring down the price of sea travel even as pricier oil drives the cost of air travel up.

Posted by | Comments Off on Opening of the Northwest Passage could reshape global travel  | October 28, 2008
Category: General

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