Econintersect: While political forces debate whether global warming exists, the world’s military planners are preparing for expanded arctic navigation, newly accessible land masses and accessing resources that have been in the deep freeze since the early stages of the last ice age. The countries involved are Norway, Denmark, Russia, Canada and the U.S., which have the largest geographic claims, and Iceland, Sweden and Finland with smaller claims of territory bordering the Arctic Ocean. Norway and Russia have made significant moves to establish military control capabilities in the Arctic region; the U.S. has been preoccupied with military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and has not been as active.
Since the early days of exploration in the New World, the quest for a reliable sea route from the Atlantic to the Far East through the Arctic Ocean at the boundary of North America was a four century dream. A passage was first made in 1903-1906 by Roald Amundsen. But that far from established a reliable route – the passage took three years and was accomplished with a series of “freezing-ins” of his ship with waits in between for warmer seasons to break loose and move farther west.
In 2008 it was reported that, for the first time in at least 125,000 years, an ice free passage became available, with routes shown in the map below. However, another reference has been found that reports a passage was made through ice-free waters in the summer of 2000 by a Canadian police patrol boat (BBC). Click on map for larger image.
The use of these now navigable waterways is complicated by the fact that they use what Canada considers to be part of Canadian Internal Waters.
In another territorial claim twist, two Russian submarines planted a titanium Russian flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole. This was a symbolic claim on ownership of mineral rights there, but was not considered a credible claim because of the distance from the Russian shoreline.
- As ice Cap melts, militaries vie for Arctic edge (Eric Talmadge, Associated Press, R&D Magazine, 16 April 2012)
- Nortwest Passage (Wikipedia)
- Roald Amundsen (UNC-TV)
- For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated (Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, 31 August 2008)
- The Northwest Passage – without ice (BBC, 10 September 2000)