The modern version of the weekly reader, TIME for Kids, published by the same folks who bring you TIME magazine, heralded the news of the very first ships to sail the legendary “Northeast Passage” in an article titled “An Arctic Passage.” This route links Europe to the Pacific Ocean, while avoiding the much longer route through the Suez canal and Indian Ocean. But the reality is that this route was travelled on a regular basis by the Russians from the 1930s to the 1990s. Read on to see how bogus this propaganda, that was spoon fed to your children, really was.
This is new, the kids are told, because normally it is “impassable, even in summer, because of packed ice. But melting ice caps are making it easier for ships to navigate the Arctic.”
But the real purpose of this article is to keep the drumbeat of global warming fear pounding in the heads of our children. “Scientists say global warming is responsible for the arctic thaw, which is causing many frozen channels to thaw” they are told.
The Truth about the Northeast Passage from Russia’s Gubernskaya Academy
As exciting as the above story sounds, it is essentially untrue. You can read much about the history and exploration of the Northeast Passage as compiled by the Russian Gubernskaya Academy and presented for the International Polar Year. Here are some of the highlights…
In 1934 the ice-cutter “Litke” made the voyage from Vladivostok to Murmansk without failure by the Northern Sea Route. “Litke” captain was N.M. Nikolaev, research manager V.Yu. Vize. In 1935 four cargo motor ships passed through the Route during a single navigation season.
During the 1930s the Soviets started regular navigated the waters of the Northeast Passage. Gubernskaya Academy documents remind us that…
Before the Great Patriotic War [WWII] the Soviet Union gained big experience of carriers navigation in the Arctic. The ports of Dickson, Dudinka, Tiksi, Pevek and Provideniya were under construction. During the war apart from supply of the Arctic construction sites and research stations it was necessary to ensure supply of garrisons and warships and to receive goods delivered from the USA and Canada.
Soviet ships would ply the Northeast passage regularly for the next six decades. Shipping via the Northeast Passage peaked in 1993, but declined after that – not because of ice, but rather cold economic and political winds for the dissolved Soviet Union.
Dissolution of the Soviet Union followed by social and economic crisis of the post-Soviet space in the early 1990’s had a negative influence upon the condition of the Northern Sea Route. The supply system was destroyed due to dissolution of centralized maintenance supply of the Russian North. Due to price liberalization and credit system reconstruction most enterprises in the framework of the Northern Sea Route operation were in a difficult financial state….By 2003 the volume of freight decreased 5 times (1,7 million tons) in comparison with the golden age of the Soviet era.
The two German ships that TIME for Kids referred to are really just the beginning of what the Russians hope will be a revival of trade between Europe, Siberia and Pacific region of Asia:
At present, practical steps are made in Russia to overcome the crisis and to continue development of the Northern Sea Route. This proves high strategic significance of this unique Arctic itinerary. In the first place this high importance is connected with forthcoming development of immense Arctic offshore oil and gas fields. Transit functions of the Northern Sea Route are also of high importance, mainly for development of regions located in the Extreme North and the Far East. Nowadays, many countries of the world are interested in cargo transportation by the Northern Sea Route. This is mainly due to the growing commodity turnover between Europe and the countries of Asian and Pacific regions. Possibly the XXIst century may become an era of intensive development of the Northern Sea Route as of an important arctic transportation passage of national and international importance.
The last ice-cold hard facts
So, these two German ships simply were not the first to make this trip. In 2000 the Minister of Transportation of the Russian Federation, Sergey Frank, planning for a revival of the trade route, pointed out…
“In 1993 – 1997 the volume of sea cargo along the Northern Sea Route was already 150 – 200 thousand tons a year. Cargo traffic peaked in 1993, during the Arctic’s summer shipping season. During that period, 15 Russian ships with 210 thousand tons of transit goods passed along the Route. Also, 8 ships carrying metals, fertilizers and timber traveled from ports in Russia, Latvia, Sweden and Finland to China, Japan, and Thailand. 7 ships from China carried oilcake, bauxite, magnetite and other operating supplies to Holland, England, Ireland, Germany, and Spain.”
Oh, by the way, TIME for Kids somehow forgot to mention that the two German cargo ships that made the Northwest Passage trip this year were accompanied by a NUCLEAR POWERED ICE_BREAKER!!! The UK’s Independent, like TIME for Kids, somehow overlooked the previous 70 years of shipping along the route. But in the midst of their panic-stricken, end of the world report on this global warming disaster story, they let slip…
The voyage of the two [German] vessels was certainly no picnic. Although not thoroughbred ice-breakers themselves, both ships were designed to cope with ice-strewn waters and were accompanied by at least one Russian nuclear ice-breaker during the whole of the trip. The two ships encountered snow, fog, ice floes, and treacherous icebergs which showed only about one meter of their huge underwater volume on the sea’s surface.
The most challenging stretch of the voyage came at its northernmost point, the Vilkizi Strait on the tip of Siberia. Half of the sea’s surface was covered with pack ice and the captains of both vessels had to call Russian ice pilots on board to shepherd them through. Vlarey Durov, captain of the Beluga Foresight spoke of the stress he experienced from having to keep a constant lookout for ice and the time spent waiting for the seas to clear. (emphasis added)