The Northwest Passage, a long-sought sea route from Europe to Asia, finally revealed itself this summer. The arctic sea ice that had made such a journey impossible until now has temporarily melted, thanks to Earth’s tidy new roommate, Global Warming.
The Northwest Passage has been theorized and sought after since the Fifteenth century, as European powers desired a faster sea route to Asia, via the north Atlantic. The Italian explorer, John Cabot, made the first attempt to find the passage in 1497, an act that would usher in half a millennia of failed expeditions. In the last century, several explorers have successfully traversed the waters of the Canadian arctic, although only with ice-fortified ships, and often through very shallow waterways. This August, however, sattelite images have confirmed a navigable and ice-free Northwest Passage.
Many climate models have predicted the opening of the passage with the onset of global warming, but none had suggested that it would happen so soon (predictions had ranged from 2012 to 2080). The waterways will certainly freeze over during the winter, although climate scientists expect that they will be open for increasing durations in summers to come.
John Cabot, after five hundred years of being lost at sea, was understandably nonplussed by the news. “It’s great, I guess,” says Cabot, “It’s just, I wish… argh.” The maritime explorer seemed excited about the prospect of faster trade with “the Orient,” however, as a route through the Arctic Ocean would cut 4000 miles off of a trip from Europe to Asia. On his future plans for international trade, Cabot simply stated, “Spices. Spices, and silks, and precious stones.”