Thanks to climate change, a giant cruise ship is charging through the once-unnavigable Northwest Passage, bringing an unprecedented number of tourists to remote Arctic communities for the first time.
After slipping through the Dolphin Straight—a dangerous and narrow channel that has only been charted in recent decades—the Crystal Serenity cruise ship docked on Monday in Cambridge Bay, a hamlet of about 1,500 people in Canada's Nunavut territory, where hundreds of eager tourists were shuttled to shore.
While the cruise ship—the largest ever to navigate the treacherous passage—has been welcomed by local politicians touting its economic benefits, climate scientists and environmental groups have hailed it as a harbinger of a rapidly melting Arctic, and say it will encourage fleets of cruises to follow.
The unforgiving Northwest Passage, which famously defeated the British Franklin expedition in the 1840s, leading to the deaths of 129 men including their captain Sir John Franklin, is now a shortcut for ships seeking to cross North America, and saw its first ice-free summer in 2007. Since then, cruise companies have eyed the channel for its tourism potential