Climate Change In Action

Chukchi Sea John and I have a longstanding interest in collecting books on historical and present-day exploration of the high latitudes, or “death and destruction on the ice” as we call it. But it looks like climate change could put an end to this genre more quickly than we thought: This summer, for the first time in recorded history, a sailor has completed a transit of the NW Passage in 12 days solo non-stop and two boats have completed the NW and NE Passages in one season.

I congratulate these sailors and in no way wish to denigrate their achievements, which took more courage and ability to face hardship than I possess; however, no amount of grit could have accomplished these feats without a massive reduction in the quantity of ice in the passages. As Norwegian Børge Ousland, leader of one of the expeditions that circled the Pole, says:

It is, unfortunately, the dramatic changes in Arctic sea ice conditions in recent years that have made this trip possible. On the time of Roald Amundsen it took five to six years to complete the same distance, due to the extremely difficult and demanding ice conditions. Now we have proven that it is possible to make the voyage in a 31-foot fibreglass sailing boat, equipped with a 10 horsepower outboard motor for emergencies. This shows how dramatic and how fast these changes are happening…

I guess our book collection will soon become either very valuable or completely worthless as “death and destruction on the ice” becomes an historical footnote.

Here are some images showing the affects of climate change, taken on our trips in Morgan’s Cloud to the southeast coast of Greenland in 2000 and 2003.

Slideshow requires a reasonably up to date copy of the Adobe Flash plug-in or iPhone/iPad or Android and that java script be enabled.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • David Nutt October 3, 2010, 8:07 am

    My father has hundreds of slides of Greenland taken in 1956. We took photos of some of the same place on our trip in 2010. Plans are to make many more comparative photos when we return in 2011. Quite a contrast in some areas.

  • Piotr Berlinski January 5, 2011, 11:40 am

    Can you share a list of titles of your collection? I know that a part of it would be currently unavailable, but I’d like to compare it with my small collection.



    • Phyllis January 8, 2011, 5:33 pm

      Hi, Piotr; Thanks for your interest in our collection of books on the high latitudes. As it is quite an extensive collection, it would be a huge task to catalogue it. If we ever get around to doing so, however, we will post it here.


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