As darkness overtakes the very Far North, and the wintry plunge in temperatures starts to rebuild the depleted Arctic Ocean floes, several newsbits offer harbingers of hot change in 2008 and beyond.
With ice retreating hundreds of miles further north than at any time in the modern era, shipping to the world’s largest zinc mine on Alaska’s Chukchi Sea has been profitable, says the Puget Sound Business Journal in an article last month.
“Foss Maritime, to carry a record 1.45 million tons of zinc ore from northern Alaska’s Red Dog mine before the ice closes in again in November,” the article states. “Usually the ice returns more rapidly, limiting the loading of ore.”
Like most managers around the region, McElroy, Foss’ senior vice president of marine transportation, is conflicted about benefiting from global warming. He’s worried about damage to sea life and to the global environment.
But he knows the retreating sea ice creates opportunities for Foss Maritime Co. in Arctic regions, and like other regional companies, Foss is seeking to develop them.
McElroy is particularly interested in new petroleum resources that may become accessible if there’s more open water off the North Slope of Alaska in the summer.
“The oil development stuff, if it’s offshore and onshore, requires tug and barge work and support activities, and that’s definitely of interest to Foss,” he said. “We’re watching that closely.”
Think this sounds peachy? Can you say “Titanic”? Open water and long fetches may give the shattered ice cap more room to founder in unpredictable ways. And the ice gurus are worried.