First-ever luxury cruise' sails Canada's Northwest Passage

Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:51pm EDT
 
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(This version of the Aug. 16 story corrects headline and first paragraph to show ship was the journey's first luxury cruise, adds attribution)

TORONTO (Reuters) - A ship its operator calls the "first-ever luxury cruise" to sail through Canada's Northwest Passage was set to depart on Tuesday, part of a growing Arctic tourism industry spurred by rising temperatures and receding ice.

The ship Crystal Serenity was to depart from Anchorage, Alaska, and cut through frigid northern waters before reaching New York in one month, according to a schedule from its American operator, Crystal Cruises.

The route was first navigated more than a century ago by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, but has been ice-free only in recent years. The journey raises questions about further human degradation of a region disproportionably affected by climate change, where temperatures are rising twice as quickly as the world average.

The World Wildlife Foundation recognizes that Crystal Cruises has tried to minimize its environmental impact, but the area lacks the infrastructure to deal with potential accidents, said Andrew Dumbrille, a foundation specialist in sustainable shipping.

Crystal Serenity likely will not cause problems, but more cruises will follow, said Michael Byers, a professor at the University of British Columbia who studies Arctic sovereignty and the environment.

Byers said ships, which can traverse the waters only because of melting ice, have large carbon footprints, and an accident would be devastating for the fragile Arctic.

"They take advantage of climate change, and they cause even more climate change," Byers said. "That is an enormous problem and also a terrible irony."

Crystal Cruises did not respond to requests for comment.   Continued...