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Up North

by Jace Sat Mar 26th, 2011 at 08:15:39 PM EST

Resources became products at Whale Creek. Trees from forests no longer virgin, animals, earth were all sent to the various mills, smelters, tanneries and rendering plants to become processed and refined. Not long after the state abolished slavery, this was the industrial heart of New York. But no more, we have others doing this work for us now. In their place lies an immense new wastewater plant, the fabric covering visitor's center not yet completely torn off.


About two weeks ago, Father Neptune himself paid a visit to New York. Or should I say herself, since this Father Neptune is a bulk cargo ship. She was here on a trip charter adding to the mountain of Chilean road salt left behind by the Nord Leader.

Before that she carried coal from China to India and visited Sao Sebastiao, Brazil to pick up a load of balsa wood. Now, she's carrying thousands of tons of petroleum coke from Louisiana to destinations unknown. Over the past year, Father Neptune will have visited all of the seven seas bar one. Lacking the strength needed to push through the ice, Father Neptune won't be able to penetrate the Arctic Ocean anytime soon.

Most any modern cargo ship can be ice-strengthened, time and money being the only true constraints. Norden, the Danish company that hired Father Neptune, just rebuilt two of their ships for service in the ice. One of them, jointly owned with Glencore, is also named in tribute to the God of the Seas. The formerly named Nordkap can now transport resources like coal across a frozen Baltic Sea, whether she does so or not depends only on the profits to be earned.

Icebreakers and the recently designed double acting ships are specialized and expensive machines. What they lack in versatility, they make up for in brute force. They're able to roam the Arctic at will by climbing on top of the still substantial protective ice cap and then using their mass to force their way through. It's loud and it's violent but it's the only way to finally open up the long resistant, frigid Arctic.

Aside from the occasional and often errant adventurer, for centuries the rich hunting grounds were the main allure of the Arctic. Very specialized, yet comparatively poorly equipped whalers would brave the dangers of the north, making brief forays into the ice because of the profits to be made. Killing the right whale was always key: the larger the whale, the more oil refined. Some whales, like Baleen and Sperm whales yielded additional products like parasol ribs and fixatives for perfumes. Most often, the whales would be first processed near the hunting grounds with more conventional ships delivering the products to market. I doubt there are many whale bones deep in the muck of Whale Creek.

Less than the six months ago, and with the help of Russian icebreakers, the MV Nordic Barents became the first non-Russian bulk carrier to traverse the Northern Sea Route. With the ice cap in full retreat, more trips are planned. And why not? Travel time from the north of Europe to China is nearly halved. Even with the added cost of the icebreakers, mining iron ore in northern Norway now makes perfect economic sense.

But the opening of the Arctic is not just about new shipping routes. There are vast resources that lie, unexploited, beneath the ice: oil, minerals, fisheries. To take full advantage of this, stronger, larger and more powerful ships are needed. And they're coming, quickly.

Some day, Father Neptune too may be hard enough to ply the seventh sea. There she will experience first hand the beauty of the north as her crew gazes in awe at all the habitat that is now ours and ours alone. It will be a sight to behold as every resource, the wind, the earth and the animals in the sea and on the land will be working for us. What other choice do they have?

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Double-acting comments are always welcome.
by Jace on Sat Mar 26th, 2011 at 08:20:05 PM EST
what J said...

they sorta are complete without any comments already.

lovely pix, nice writing, nice one.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 27th, 2011 at 12:35:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they are rather hard to comment upon, but they always make for a fascinating read - a whole trip with unexpected turns each time.

Thanks.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 27th, 2011 at 06:53:09 AM EST
Thanks. The fun part in writing these is seeing where they'll take me (hopefully without wandering too much from the point).
by Jace on Sun Mar 27th, 2011 at 11:33:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Andaman, South China, Java, Sulu, Celebes, Molucca, and Banda ~ and note that if the Dutch has settled Australia from the northwest instead of the English from the east, the Dutch East Indies and associated carry trade would have extended through the Timor and Arafura Seas and it would have been "I've sailed the Nine Seas" as a claim of old salts on Western ships who had participated in the Southeast Asian carrying trade.

Though imagine if you'd sailed the Southeast Asian carry trade, and also Southeast Asia / PNG / Solomons / Australia / New Zealand ~ there's the Timor, Arafura, Bismark, Solomon, Coral and Tasman seas as well off to the east and southeast of the Seven Seas. You could say, "I've sailed the Seven Seas, and the Six as well", and really confuse those who've never been in the great Southwest Pacific Archipelagos.

If pressed to guess, I'd be guessing that of the seven, it was the Molucca Sea that they missed. Going through the straits takes you through the Andaman Sea, Java Sea and Banda Sea, and there's a HK / Manila route that runs west of the Phillipines through the South China, Sulu and Celebes Seas to the Pacific Ocean.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 27th, 2011 at 02:56:41 PM EST
It's loud and it's violent but it's the only way to finally open up the long resistant, frigid Arctic.

I disagree.  I think another strategy would be to fill that atmosphere with IR absorbing gases to increase the earth's mean temperature enough to prevent the ice forming.  Possible gases include various fluorocarbons, light hydrocarbons and gaseous oxides.

by njh on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 05:50:20 AM EST
fill that atmosphere with IR absorbing gases to increase the earth's mean temperature enough to prevent the ice forming

I never would have guessed that something like this could be tried. If I knew this was a possible option, I would have figured out a way to work it into this story. Perhaps I'll fit it into the next one.

by Jace on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 11:51:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

But the opening of the Arctic is not just about new shipping routes. There are vast resources that lie, unexploited, beneath the ice: oil, minerals, fisheries. To take full advantage of this, stronger, larger and more powerful ships are needed. And they're coming, quickly.

Meaning no dis to your fine, captivating writing, there's something about that quote that gives me the shivers. we could be taking a different tack towards to how we live here, no? Aren't we long past the damage threshold?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 02:08:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's exactly the point. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead...
by Jace on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 02:48:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
roger, check.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 03:06:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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