The Arctic: Global Warming and Heated Politics

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The Arctic, a vast sea historically trapped in ice for most of the year, has long been an object of fascination for explorers. The search for a shortcut from Europe to Asia began as early as the 15th century by Spanish and Portuguese ships commanded by such luminaries as Vasco de Gama and Christopher Columbus, with the tempo increasing in the mid-19th century. Not a few, like the ill-fated British expedition of Sir John Franklin in 1845, died in the effort. In 1906, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage, and three years later, an American, Robert Peary, and his crew reached the North Pole.

A polar maritime route has several advantages: It is 30-40 percent shorter than the alternate route through the Suez Canal, thereby enabling goods to be transported back and forth faster while saving fuel and reducing environmental costs. Unlike…

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