On August 16, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity departed from Anchorage on a voyage through the Northwest Passage. The ship is along the west coast of Greenland this week, making stops in Sisimiut and Nuuk, and it will end up in New York City next week. Here’s the route:
The first trip by sea through the Northwest Passage was Roald Amundsen’s 1903-1906 expedition. Though ships are using this route more in recent years (30 did in 2012), the Crystal Serenity is the first large-scale luxury cruise liner to make the transit. Ticket prices ranged from $22,000 to $120,000, and the ship is accompanied by the icebreaking R.R.S Ernest Shackleton.
I have mixed feelings about cruises, though I’ve never been on one. My parents loved the Saint Lawrence River and the Panama Canal, and I was ready to go after listening to them. But then there’s the David Foster Wallace essay on the experience, found in a book in the Library here and also online. It’s a fun read, and you’ll likely want to read more of his essays after reading this one, but you’ll come away thinking twice about taking a cruise…
Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum extent about a week before the autumnal equinox – that’s September 22 this year. The extent is tending to lessen over the years, and there’s speculation about what it all means and when the Arctic will experience its first ice-free summer in 125,000 years or so. Here’s a satellite image from September 7.
Notice that you could also cruise along the north coast of Russia on the Northeast passage.
The Crystal Serenity will likely be cruising the Northwest Passage for years to come. For a bit of this year’s experience, see the ship’s blog.