Arctic oil drilling platform

Arctic oil drilling platform

Here’s a thought to keep an environmentalist awake at night:

About 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas are likely to be north of the Arctic Circle, close to the North Pole, where Santa lives. Eighty-Four percent of this is expected to require offshore drilling.

First ship cross the top of the world from Scandinavia to Asia.

First ship cross the top of the world from Scandinavia to Asia.

And if that wasn’t enough to worry about, consider this:

It seems that with global warming, the Arctic sea ice is melting. This means that some shipping companies are considering the Arctic Ocean as a major shipping route. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mitsui OSK of Japan and China Shipping Development Company have joined together to invest $932 million dollars in three LNG carriers, tough enough to handle the rough, icy waters near the pole, hopefully strong enough to withstand damage from an iceberg.

American Flag at the North Pole in 1909, placed there by Dr.  Frederick Albert Cook

American Flag at the North Pole in 1909, placed there by Dr. Frederick Albert Cook

 

That’s a lot of activity taking place in an area so desolate and hostile, where only 107 years ago, three adventurers almost died trying to reach the North Pole on foot. Two Inuit men, named Etukishook and Ahwelah, accompanied an American Doctor, Dr. Frederick Albert Cook.

Listeners of our audiobook, “My Attainment of the North Pole,” by Dr. Frederick Albert Cook, will remember their incredible struggle to reach the Pole and their life and death struggle to return to civilization. What Dr. Cook learned, to his dismay, was that the North Pole is not located on solid land. It is a fixed point on the Arctic Sea. The point may be fixed, but the sea moves westward, beneath a thick layer of ice.

Dr. Frederick Albert Cook in Arctic dress.

Dr. Frederick Albert Cook in Arctic dress.

 

All of Cook’s food supplies were carefully cached on his up way to the pole, for use on his way back down to civilization. Because of the westward ocean movement, however, his supplies moved west, out of his return path. Cook and his two companions had to hunt and live off the land on their return trip home.

A Polar Bear competing for the same food as a human is a pretty formidable opponent, if the human doesn’t have a gun. Cook had only one bullet left.

Roberts Peary on his way North

Roberts Peary on his way North

Cook’s great achievement was denounced by Rear Admiral Robert Peary, who called Cook’s claim fraudulent, because Peary wanted to be known as the first person to reach the North Pole. Today, many people consider Peary’s claim to reach the North Pole doubtful. But Peary and his wealthy, well-connected associates’ words and actions not only destroyed Cook’s reputation, they ruined his life, as our listeners know.  Free Preview:  http://listen2read.com/attainment-north-pole/

 

Both men claimed the North Pole for the United States of America. With new shipping and oil drilling on the icy Arctic horizon, the question of who really owns the North Pole is becoming increasingly important.

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Cover of booklet “At The Pole With Cook and Peary” published in 1909. From the Frederick A. Cook Society collection in the Ohio State University Archives

Until now, ownership has been a theoretical consideration, because the area around the North Pole had no economic usefulness. But now, things

Ice Breaker cutting through arctic ice

Ice Breaker cutting through arctic ice

are heating up. In order to lay claim to this territory, a country must have some kind of physical attachment to the area. The United States, Norway, Canada and Russia all have such an attachment.

Last December, Denmark announced its intention to claim ownership of 900,000 square kilometers of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean by filing papers with the United Nations. Denmark makes this claim because of its relationship with Greenland, which is actually a part of Denmark, even though it is governed separately.

But things are never simple. It turns out that the Danish claim overlaps the Kingdom of Norway’s continental shelf. And it wouldn’t surprise me if other countries were also reevaluating their positions on the area.

Russian Arctic outpost

Russian Arctic outpost

With Denmark making its move, Russia is ramping up its military in the region. The town of Alakuretti is to be the new center of Russian

military presence. According to Russian Admiral Vladimir Korolev, 3,000 warm bodies are about to get cooler, with support from 45 submarines and 39 ships, plus operating personnel.

In 2009, the ship, Beluga Fraternity, traveled from Ulsan in North Korea to Rotterdam, through the Northeast Passage, as the Arctic route is called, without any assistance from ice breakers. This route saved 4,000 shipping miles!

Arctic pathmaker

Arctic pathmaker

 

At the moment, it looks as if transportation will be the first beneficiary of the warmer Arctic Circle, and it is possible that oil drilling will be postponed for a while. Recently, Shell Oil pulled out of some leases, because Shell suddenly realized that it doesn’t know how to drill in such a hostile area.

Opposition to drilling is growing as well. The Sierra Club is circulating a petition to stop oil drilling in the Arctic. Here’s a link in case you’d like to sign it: (https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=7695)

 

Arctic ship on route

Arctic ship on route

The World Wild Life Federation’s Margaret Williams states: “It is not just a Deep-Water Horizon-like spill that could pollute these waters for generations…even small volumes of crude spilled in open water and washed into wetlands could cause irreversible damage. “
In the meantime, Chevron told the Canadian regulators last month that it has “indefinitely” suspended plans to drill for oil in Arctic waters because of uncertainty over the outlook for crude prices.

So, believe it or not, the market place may have temporarily saved the Artic environment. But remember, the market place that giveth can also taketh away.

Andre Stojka
Publisher,
Listen2Read
Audiobooks
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