By 1969, Exxon had found and leased the large reserves of crude oil under Alaska’s North Slope. The problem was how to transport the crude from Alaska to refineries. Exxon decided on two possible scenarios: A tanker through the North West Passage to the East Coast refineries, or build a pipeline to a port in southern Alaska and transport by ship to west coast refineries.
Exxon decided to try the transporting through the Arctic Ocean, as that would not require the difficulty of obtaining a costly right of way and permission for a pipeline across Alaska.
The trip was made with the help and assistance of U.S and Canadian ice breakers. The Manhattan, a retrofitted oil tanker/icebreaker, left the East Coast and arrived in Prudhoe Bay where it picked up one barrel of oil and then made a return trip to New York.
It was later found that the winter weather would make the trip impossible and the North West Passage oil rout was scrapped.
Back in the early 1970 I was attached to a Navy special projects command. One of our missions was to provide an airborne platform for scientific measurement of ice thickness in the Arctic Ocean above Canada; again looking for a possible North West Passage. It had been proven that passage through the Arctic Ocean was possible, but would it be practical to try to maintain an open passageway.?
Now that is a moot question. The Arctic Ocean is open thanks to global warming and we are about to see a commercial exploitation of the area.
In September of this year the Crystal Cruise line is offering a thirty-two day trip through the North West passage. The cost will run from $28,000 to $46,000 per person. Soon we can expect other cruise ships and even commercial ships to sail this route.
This new intrusion of man into the arctic will negatively affect the breeding ground of whales and eventually effect all arctic wildlife in that ecosystem. These ships burn dirty fuel that will produce carbon emissions that will result in increased melting of arctic ice.
Again, the avarice of mankind trumps protection of this fragile planet we live on. At some point mankind will have caused the sixth extinction. We are proving to be the most destructive life form produced on this planet.
Have a happy Monday