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The Northwest Passage
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The Northwest Passage

September 25, 2007

The MODIS on the Terra satellite captured this image of a section of the Northwest Passage, located between Candada and Greenland, on September 15, 2007. The Northwest Passage is a sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans - it threads through the Arctic Ocean and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, along the northern coast of North America.

This passage was sought by explorers looking for a possible trade route, and it was first navigated by Roald Amundsen in 1903-6. From west to east the Northwest Passage runs through the Bering Strait (separating Russia and Alaska), Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and then through several waterways that go through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. There are five to seven different routes through the archipelago. The passage then goes through Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait into the Atlantic Ocean.

There has been speculation that due to climate change, the passage may become clear enough of ice to permit safe commercial shipping for at least part of the year. According to the European Space Agency, on August 21, 2007 the Northwest Passage became open to ships without the need of an icebreaker. According to Nalan Koc of the Norwegian Polar Institute, this is the first time it has been clear since they began keeping records in 1972.



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