For centuries, explorers sought the Northwest Passage, the elusive sea route through the Canadian Arctic connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. And for centuries, thick pack ice made the route impassable—and often deadly. But a warming climate is changing that. Last year, Crystal Cruises made its maiden voyage from Alaska to New York—a staggering 32 days and 7,297 miles—and a growing number of outfitters like Adventure Canada now offer similar journeys.
No one is happy about climate change, but summer in the Arctic is a time of unexpected bloom: At Baffin Island, Canada’s largest island, you’ll find fat, healthy bears on ice floes. In Lancaster Sound, you can see arctic foxes, walruses, bowhead whales. Zooming through fjords in Zodiacs, you’ll get scarily close to calving ice, racing along glacial walls in search of narwhals.
It’s breathtaking—but, frankly, unsettling. Gawking at the giant icebergs in Greenland’s Ilulissat, it’s sobering to recall that 8% of the earth’s freshwater is locked in Greenland’s ice. If that melts, seas would rise 23 feet globally. And this striking landscape could be lost forever.
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