Passages North

56 years ago, on 4 September 1954, the icebreakers USCGC Northwind and USS Burton Island completed the first transit of the Northwest passage through McClure Strait.

There has been a lot more activity in the North lately (more here and here), with the promise that if the melting continues, passages from Northern Europe to Asia may be cut by up to half (link includes a nice comparisons of the routes). The Russians expect to make some money on fees for passage and the use of their icebreakers.

There is even talk that it may substantially hurt business at the Suez Canal and allow ships to avoid pirates off Somalia. Looks like that is still a few years off since the season is very limited and only ice strengthened vessels can use the route now.

Still other people are planning ahead. China is building their second polar icebreaker and positioning itself to exploit the Arctic. Maybe a little healthy competition is the wake up call we need.

8 thoughts on “Passages North

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  3. Where did the Northwind and Burton Island start from? How does this passage, match with the Passage of STORIS< BRAMBLE and SPAR, three years later?

  4. All I had on this was the Naval History and Heritage Command Facebook information, but the Northwind’s history page at the CG Historian’s site says that Northwind was homeported in Seattle and that from 12 July-29 September 195 she participated in the U.S.-Canadian Beaufort Sea Exploration, so it sounds like she probably left Seattle, supported research in the Beaufort Sea and then exited into the Atlantic.

    Lots of information about Storis, Bramble, and Spar’s circumnavigation of North America here:

    Note there was a Canadian Icebreaker with them part of the way.

  5. So, while both US breakers, may have transisted the North West Passage, it was STORIS<BRAMBLE and SPAR, that circumnavigated North America.

    The Canadian Breaker, was probably the HMCS LABRADOR, that happened to be a Wind Class Breaker.

  6. BBC reports the Russians are preparing eight floating nuclear power plants to provide power for exploiting petroleum deposits in the arctic.

    In addition there is a nice map of competing claims.

    I found this line interesting: “Although Moscow denies it’s setting up special military forces or bases to protect its interests in the Arctic, it is establishing a new coastguard under the control of the all-powerful intelligence agency, the FSB.” As far as I know there is already a Russian equivalent of the CG that grew out of the old “Maritime Boarder Troops of the KGB,” with a bit different set of priorities than our own, of course.

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