The Northwest Passage is not an obvious choice for a holiday cruise. It is, after all, one of the most notorious ocean routes. Many hundreds of sailors died in opening up the seaway, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Canadian Arctic, before it was conquered just over a century ago. But the Arctic today is changing. Global warming is altering it at a rate that is unmatched anywhere else on Earth, and a journey once considered grotesquely dangerous has become a voyage now feasible for the inquiring traveller. Today you can sail through the Northwest Passage, as I did last week, on a ship that offers hot-tubs, bars and restaurants, albeit with armed protection against polar bears and kit for keeping out the cold. By contrast, in 1845 John Franklin’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage was utterly defeated by the Arctic, even though his ships, the Erebus and Terror, were equipped with steam-powered engines, tinned food and other wonders of 19th-century technology. Trapped in the ice for several years, all 129 men on board died, many resorting to cannibalism as the end neared. But 170 years on, ships have strengthened hulls, global positioning receivers, radar and… Read full this story
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