The age of discovery may have passed, and the times of great explorers like Vasco D Gama or Magellan be long gone, but there are still discoveries to be made and new sea routes to be found. Although not a new find exactly, the icy trade route called the Northern Sea Route has recently been the object of renewed attentions, with melting arctic icecaps now making it possible to cut the sailing distance to Asia. The most dominant shipping route through the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean by Singapore may just have found itself a new competitor in world trade.
Although not its discoverer, Swedish-Finnish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was in 1879 the first person to complete the crossing of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). However, at first the route was not seen as a realistic alternative for ships carrying cargo between Europe and Asia. Icecaps and ice sheets made it treacherous; even Nordenskiöld’s expedition had to wait several months for the ice to melt before it could continue on its journey. The NSR shipping lane was by and by somewhat forgotten, until last year when 46 ships sailed through it. This was by no means the first time this trade route had been used this century, but on this occasion it carried 1.2m tonnes of cargo, quite an increase on previous years. An intriguing possibility presented itself: had a new trade route between Asia and Europe suddenly opened up as a result of global warming and shrinking icecaps?
by Joakim CarbonnierRead More »