Prior to this year, no one had sailed around the Arctic Ocean in a single summer season. This year, two expeditions did so, and the receding ice near the Arctic coast made it look easy.
The Northern Passage, a trimaran carrying explorer Børge Ousland, captain Thorleif Thorleifsson, and various crew members along the way, set out from Oslo, Norway, four months ago at the beginning of summer and arrived back at its starting point today.
A Russian expedition on the yacht Peter I following the same course paused at Iceland for repairs and to wait out difficult weather, but may also be arriving home, at St. Petersburg, this weekend.
A number of cargo ships also crossed the Arctic Ocean this summer, making it the first season for routine cargo traffic crossing the Arctic between the Pacific and the Atlantic.
In its assessment of the summer melt season in the Arctic, NOAA concludes that the new pattern of summer melt, which started in 2007, is permanent. It also says the resulting increased volatility of Arctic weather is affecting weather patterns in temperate climates. NOAA also said the trend toward thinner ice cover can be expected to continue.