Alaska’s Seal Hunt Lasted Only a Few Days Because It’s So Hot

By Julia O’Malley

July 01, 2015

KOTZEBUE, Alaska-In this Far North village, no animal provides more protein
to fill freezers than the bearded seal. A single seal can supply hundreds of
pounds of meat, enough to feed a large, extended family for a winter.

For generations, every late June and early July, native hunters like Ross
Schaeffer and his niece Karmen Schaeffer Monigold have motored through the
broken sea ice of Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska, looking for seals
basking on frosty rafts. But this year, temperatures were close to 70
degrees, there was no ice in sight, and the seals had already migrated
north.

This seal-hunting season was the shortest in memory, lasting less than a
week, compared with the usual three weeks.

Schaeffer and Monigold did manage to get a few animals, but the conditions
were nothing like Schaeffer, 68, had seen before. By the third week in June,
when Monigold would usually be dressed for cold, she drove out to check on
her drying seal hide wearing flip-flops and shorts.

“Every year we’ve gone out, it’s getting harder and harder because the ice
is so rotten by the time it’s time to go hunting that the seals are hard to
find,” Monigold says.

Pictures of ice melting in Kotzebue, Alaska from a helicopter
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/
02sealhunting.ngsversion.855e78e69274979c8008eed13c1e1a3d.adapt.1900.1.jpg>

The amount of ice near Kotzebue, Alaska, changed dramatically between May,
2015, (on the left) and June (on the right.) This May was the warmest on
record in Kotzebue.

Photographs by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

In Kotzebue, as temperatures and ice become increasingly unpredictable,
hunters worry their children and grandchildren will no longer be able to
participate in the traditional seal hunt. Kotzebue is among the largest of
roughly 40 Alaska Native communities on the coast between Bristol Bay and
Kaktovik that rely on bearded seal.

< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/rights-exempt/nat-geo-s
taff-maps/2015/07/Alaska_Kotzebue_Sound/MAP_News_KotzebueSound_Alaska.ngsver
sion.4ceafa8a7ae3c316be4efd0cb84acb55.adapt.352.1.jpg>

NG MAPS

Kotzebue’s changing seal season is part of another chapter of Alaska’s
accelerated climate change story, which is threatening the food, economics,
and culture of Native communities.

The longtime patterns of many animals are changing. For example, the timing
of caribou migration
< http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/library/pdfs/wildlife/caribou_trails
/caribou_trails_2014.pdf> has been later, which scientists say may be linked
to warmer temperatures. And in the Bering Sea, wild weather and unusual sea
ice patterns have hampered
< http://www.fws.gov/alaska/fisheries/mmm/walrus/pdf/influence_of_wind_ice_sp
ring_walrus_hunting_success_2013.pdf> walrus hunting, causing serious food
shortages in some villages.
< http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304795804579101440469640728>

An Alaska Hotspot

The winter of 2014 was the warmest ever measured
< https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/%E2%80%9Cwinter%E2%80%9
D-alaska> across Alaska, and this summer has so far followed a similar
pattern, according to the National Weather Service, with hot, dry conditions
fueling hundreds of wildfires. It was the warmest May ever recorded in
Kotzebue– 8 degrees warmer than usual.

“It started raining, and it rained every night for about four or five
nights. It rained hard. That rain is so warm it just seeps right through the
ice and the ice pops up and it’s all rotten already,” says Schaeffer, who
has been hunting for about 60 years. “It’s not like it used to be.”

Picture of Ross Schaeffer
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/
07sealhunting.ngsversion.e15d54a4493b81342e33af8471e49ae3.adapt.676.1.jpg>

Ross Schaeffer, 68, who has been participating in subsistence hunts since he
was a child, says the ice conditions In Kotzebue Sound last month were
unlike any he has ever seen before. “It’s not like it used to be,” he says.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Picture of children in Alaska swimming
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/
03sealhunting.ngsversion.025dd26c5adc79d5e36f126813d1d845.adapt.1190.1.jpg>

Children swam in the sea on a warm day in June in Kotzebue, Alaska.
Temperatures hit as high as 80 degrees.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Kotzebue in particular is a hot spot in the state. Six of the ten warmest
winters in the village on record have occurred since 2000. Climatologists
say the village is likely to have more unusual heat this summer and into the
fall.

Above-average sea surface temperatures contributed to Alaska’s abnormally
warm winter when increased southerly winds flowed over the ocean and spread
inland. Next winter could be cooler, but over the long term, experts say
that warmer and wetter weather could become more common.

“The decades-long trend seems pretty clear: less and less sea ice,” says
Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the National Weather
Service in Alaska.

Ice coverage in Kotzebue Sound has been shrinking steadily since the 1950s,
with acceleration in recent years.

Related Content

< http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/seal-hunt-dickman>

< http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/seal-hunt-dickman>

1. Watch A Seal Hunt
< http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/seal-hunt-dickman>

“There is open water in the Chukchi Sea, almost up to Barrow now, which is
remarkably early,” Thoman says.

Seals Follow the Ice

Bearded seals, called ugruk in the Inupiaq language, migrate up and down
Alaska’s northwest coast, from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi and Beaufort
seas, following the ice as it advances in winter and retreats in summer,
says Peter Boveng, polar ecosystems program leader at NOAA’s Alaska
Fisheries Science Center.

Scientists estimate there are roughly 300,000 bearded seals in the Bering
Sea breeding population and an unknown number of others that breed in the
Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska, he says. As the sea ice patterns
change, there could be changes in the places where the animals spend time,
he says.

During Kotzebue’s traditional hunting season in late June, bearded seals are
hauling out on ice. They depend on the ice to give them platforms for
basking, he says, which raises their skin temperature and stimulates hair
growth to fill out their coats. That’s what complicated the hunting; seals
will only stay in the waters near Kotzebue as long as the ice conditions are
right.

Picture of a child holding a rope attached to a dead walrus in Alaska
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/
04sealhunting.ngsversion.c8f32155e837cce302fec0ae84b1c0f4.adapt.1190.1.jpg>

Inupiat families from Barrow, Alaska, hunted for walrus instead of bearded
seal when melted sea ice ended the seal hunt abnormally early in June.
Walrus this close to town during this time of year is rare. The hunters
bring their catch to stable sea ice to butcher it and then haul it back to
town by boat.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

“If the animals are really in the peak of their molt, they will probably
want to stay with the ice. And if the ice goes out earlier in Kotzebue
Sound, Kotzebue really could see be a big decline in the number of animals
visiting that area on their way north,” Boveng says.

There is no evidence so far that the changes in the ice patterns are harming
seals. However, if they can’t find ice of the quality they need, scientists
say they might not be able to grow adequate coats, which protect their skin
from abrasions and infections, Boveng says. (Read about weird changes in
other ocean life linked to global warming.
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150411-Pacific-ocean-sea-lions-b
irds-climate-warming-drought/> )

In 2011, several species of ice-dependent Alaska seals, including bearded
seals, were part of an unusual die-off
< https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seals/ice/diseased/> .
Animals turned up dead or sick with abnormal coats, among other symptoms, he
says. It is unclear whether there was a link between the event and climate
change, however.

There was once a time when Kotzebue relied on beluga whales for much of its
subsistence, says Alex Whiting, an environmental specialist for the Native
Village of Kotzebue. But then, in the 1980s, many belugas stopped coming
into the sound for reasons not entirely understood. Hunters are adaptable,
he says, and will find ways to get their seals, even if the animal patterns
change.

Picture of a person cutting seal meat in Alaska
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/
05sealhunting.ngsversion.9e7034c718a90a99bb7d0f4130f5638a.adapt.1190.1.jpg>

A woman prepared bearded seal for an annual feast in Point Hope, Alaska.

Nutritious and Spiritual6-4Hansens-trophy-goat

Pound for pound, caribou is the most important wild food source in Kotzebue,
followed closely by bearded seal, a nutritious, lean protein rich in omega
3s.

“Large adult bearded seals in particular provide singular types of meat and
oil products that are not replaceable,” Whiting says. “If the window to
harvest them is missed, it will be another year before the opportunity
arises again.”

Monigold says her main concern with the changing seal season is spiritual.
Taking children in the village to hunt instills in them a sense of purpose
and connects them to culture. When they take a bearded seal, for example,
she teaches her sons to put fresh water in the mouth to release the spirit
into the ocean, a gesture meant to bring more seals back the next year.
Sharing the meat teaches them respect and gives confidence.

Picture of people walking after returning from a seal hunt in Alaska
< http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2015/07/02/sealhunting/
06sealhunting.ngsversion.0161ee38e417d29ab4cdfe3804d10223.adapt.1190.1.jpg>

Because of melting sea ice, Inupiat men and boys from Barrow, Alaska,
returned to town after hunting bearded seal. The season was disappointing:
It ended early in June as the seals migrated north in search of ice.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Schaeffer worries that if the warming trend continues, his grandchildren
will eventually lose the opportunity to hunt bearded seals in the sound. His
grandparents traveled by dogsled and relied entirely on food they caught and
gathered but so many of their traditions have been lost in a relatively
short time. Technology was the first agent of change; now it’s climate.

Seal is a soul food for indigenous Alaskans. When Monigold goes without it
and other native foods while traveling, she feels listless and looks forward
to a meal at home.

“As soon as I take a bite, it’s like all of a sudden I’m me again,” she
says.

This reporting was supported by a grant from the
< http://pulitzercenter.org/> Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

__________________________–

Alaska’s Current Off-the-Charts Wildfire Situation

Alaskans can take a peek out the window this week to catch a glimpse of climate change. It seems the entire state is on fire, and those fires are burning up land at a pace far beyond that of 2004, the previous record-setting year.

Here are the stats:

  • Wildfires in Alaska have burned more than 1.25 million acres so far this year. That’s an area 32 times the size of Washington, D.C.
  • 3,343 firefighters are currently working in Alaska. That’s one-third of all the wildland firefighters currently tasked in the United States.
  • 85 percent of the area burned nationwide this year by wildfire has been in Alaska.

The state of Alaska is at its highest level of alert. Its Tuesday wildfire situation report was 65 pages long. And the problem is getting worse: Wildfires now burn five times more acreage each year in our northernmost state than they did in 1943.

More: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/30/alaska_wildfires_climate_change_is_helping_spark_big_fires_at_a_record_pace.html

 

 

5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/5-activists-detained-as-Shell-drill-ship-heads-for-Arctic-311005971.html

Published: Jun 30, 2015 

5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic
“Kayaktivists” gather in Everett to protest oil drilling in the Arctic.
EVERETT, Wash. – Police detained five so called “kayaktivists” Tuesday who tried to slow down Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling ship Noble Discoverer as it left for the Arctic Ocean.

In all, police say 20 protesters were in the water as the ship departed Everett on its way to Alaska at about 4 a.m., guarded by two Coast Guard vessels.

Coast Guard personnel brought the activists to shore and issued citations for violating the safety zone around the drill ship. All were later released.

The protesters oppose Shell’s plans to drill for undersea oil in the Arctic. Groups of people from Oregon, Washington and Alaska have been holding a vigil on the waterfront since last Wednesday.

Shell’s drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, left Seattle earlier this month. Two dozen protesters were cited when they tried to block that rig from leaving Seattle.

Starting next month, Shell proposes to drill up to four exploration wells over two years in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s coast.

24 activists detained as Arctic oil rig heads out of Seattle

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Activists-form-human-chain-as-Arctic-oil-rig-heads-out-of-port-307363311.html

by KOMO Staff Published: Jun 15, 2015

SEATTLE – A massive oil-drilling rig pulled out of Seattle on Monday and headed for the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean despite a last-ditch effort by protesters to block it from leaving by forming a waterborne blockade of the harbor.

The Coast Guard says 24 people were detained while taking part in the blockade of the Polar Pioneer.

Many of those detained were in kayaks – including Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien, said a Greenpeace spokesman. Around 50 other protesters on the water were not arrested, Greenpeace said.

The Polar Pioneer’s owner, Royal Dutch Shell, plans to tow the rig to the Arctic Ocean off Alaska to drill for undersea oil deposits during relatively calm summer weather conditions.

The first wave of “kayaktivists” headed out in the predawn darkness, as soon as they got word the Polar Pioneer would be on the move. Protesters accused Shell of trying to sneak the rig out of town during the darkness of night.

“Shell was trying to get the Polar Pioneer out of Seattle under cover of darkness, but the kayaktivists prevented them from leaving for several hours and exposed what they were doing to the world,” said Greenpeace’s Arctic Communications Manager Travis Nichols.

Several tugs guided the Shell-owned oil rig out of Elliott Bay as the sun rose over the city.

The petroleum giant’s plans to drill in the waters off Alaska drew a similar kayak protest in May. Activists also have chained themselves twice to a support ship in Bellingham, north of Seattle.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith says the company remains “committed to operating in a safe, environmentally responsible manner.”

The Coast Guard didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

—–

This is a developing news story. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Deepwater-Horizon-CDVIDS

(Can you say Deepwater Horizon?)

NOAA investigates Steller sea lion deaths near Cordova


(L-R) Kate Savage (NOAA), Noah Meisenheimer (NOAA), Lt. Matthew Keiper (US Coast Guard), and Sadie Wright (NOAA) collect samples from a dead Steller sea lion near Cordova, Alaska. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of several Steller sea lions southwest of Cordova.

Julie Speegle, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, Alaska region, says 15 dead sea lions were discovered in the area on June 1.

“Three to five of them had wounds that our biologists could definitely say were human-caused wounds,” Speegle said. “So that indicates that these Steller sea lions had been deliberately killed.”

Killing sea lions violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which only allows limited exceptions for subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives

These particular animals were from the western stock of Steller sea lions, which are also listed under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA law enforcement is looking for information from anyone with details about the event…and are offering an award up to $2,500 dollars for information leading to a conviction.

Gray Whale Threats

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_whale#Threats

Threats[edit]

According to the Government of Canada’s Management Plan for gray whales, threats to the eastern North Pacific population of gray whales include:[106]

  • Increased human activities in their breeding lagoons in Mexico
  • Climate change
  • Acute noise
  • The threat of toxic spills
  • Aboriginal whaling
  • Entanglement with fishing gear
  • Boat collisions
  • Impacts from fossil fuel exploration and extraction

Western gray whales are facing, the large-scale offshore oil and gas development programs near their summer feeding ground, as well as fatal net entrapments off Japan during migration, which pose significant threats to the future survival of the population.[32]

The substantial nearshore industrialization and shipping congestion throughout the migratory corridors of the western gray whale population represent potential threats by increasing the likelihood of exposure to ship strikes, chemical pollution, and general disturbance.[33][97]

Offshore gas and oil development in the Okhotsk Sea within 20 km (12 mi) of the primary feeding ground off northeast Sakhalin Island is of particular concern. Activities related to oil and gas exploration, including geophysical seismic surveying, pipelaying and drilling operations, increased vessel traffic, and oil spills, all pose potential threats to western gray whales. Disturbance from underwater industrial noise may displace whales from critical feeding habitat. Physical habitat damage from drilling and dredging operations, combined with possible impacts of oil and chemical spills on benthic prey communities also warrants concern.[33][58]

Along Japanese coasts, four females including a cow-calf pair were trapped and killed in nets in the 2000s. There had been a record of deceased individual thought to be harpooned by dolphin-hunters found on Hokkaido in 90s.[107][108] Meats for sale were also discovered in Japanese markets as well.[109]

Captivity[edit]

A gray whale in captivity

Because of their size and need to migrate, gray whales have rarely been held in captivity, and then only for brief periods of time.

In 1972, a three-month-old gray whale named Gigi (II) was captured for brief study by Dr. David W. Kenney, and then released near San Diego.[110]

In January 1997, the newborn baby whale J.J. was found helpless near Los Angeles, California, 4.2 m (14 ft) long and 800 kilograms (1,800 lb) in weight. Nursed back to health in SeaWorld San Diego, she was released into the Pacific Ocean on March 31, 1998, 9 m (30 ft) long and 8,500 kg (18,700 lb) in mass. She shed her radio transmitter packs three days later.[111]

Save the Wild Chukchi Sea—Not Just for You and Not for Me

What a strange time we live in. While Earth’s ecosystems are collapsing, both on land and throughout the sea, the same human greed that’s killing the planet is being planned for the future—as if we’re all that matters.

But as the pack ice melts earlier each year, the thing almost no one mentions is that the portion of the Arctic Ocean known as the Chukchi Sea has been claimed for centuries as strategic and crucial summer feeding grounds for grey whales. These ocean giants only want the amphipods and other benthic crustaceans they can find burrowed in the sand below the cold waters in a region nobody else wanted until now.

If things go as some people plan, Shell and others will soon follow the whales’ ancient migration route north with their oil drilling rigs and deafening seismic cannons for some human business as usual, without stopping to think about the one spill that could send the place to hell. Amphipods cannot live in oil-soaked sand, and whales cannot live without them.

After surviving the barbaric, rapacious whaling era, how sad for the grey whales to simply starve to death as a result of human actions that so many knew should never happen.

Unless the general consensus is that the planet’s going to die anyway (thanks to the likes of them) so why stop now, what are these greedy little monsters thinking? Anything?

I don’t know if there are enough folks who care about others besides themselves or their species to prevent the status quo from destroying the sea, the land, and the atmosphere we all live in, but a lot of lives depend on it.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015 All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015 All Rights Reserved

Hundreds march on Port of Seattle to protest Arctic oil drilling

Hundreds march on Port of Seattle to protest Arctic oil drilling

Seattle police accompany hundreds of protesters as they march on the Port of Seattle on Monday.

SEATTLE – Hundreds of protesters marched Monday on the Port of Seattle, where a massive floating Arctic oil drilling rig is parked on the waterfront.

Organizers say their goal is to block the gates to Terminal 5 and engage in civil disobedience to stop any work on the rig.

The Polar Pioneer, which Shell hopes to use to drill off Alaska’s northwest coast this summer, arrived in Seattle on Thursday. Hundreds of protesters in kayaks and other vessels turned out on Saturday for a protest dubbed the “Paddle in Seattle.”

They plan to continue their protest on land Monday.

The protesters say they’re concerned about the risk of oil spill in the Arctic and the effects of burning fossil fuels on climate change.

Officials in Alaska have touted the money the drilling could bring the state, as well as economic benefits to the Pacific Northwest, which uses much of Alaska’s oil.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Renewed-Arctic-oil-drilling-protests-planned-in-Seattle-304112881.html

Also see: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Anti-Arctic-drilling-kayaktivists-hold-Shell-No-protest-303995901.html

And:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30780-paddle-up-resistance-to-shell-s-arctic-drilling-grows-on-land-and-sea

 

‘Kayactivists’ protest as Arctic drill rig moors off Seattle

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Kayakers-protest-as-Arctic-drill-rig-moors-off-Seattle-303891431.html

'Kayactivists' protest as Arctic drill rig moors off Seattle»Play Video
A small flotilla of kayakers and other protest boats follow as the oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer is towed toward a dock Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Elliott Bay in Seattle.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
SEATTLE (AP) – As a massive oil drill rig moved into Seattle, about two dozen activists in kayaks paddled to the middle of Elliott Bay, linked boats and unfurled a banner to make a stand against Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to open a new frontier of fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic Ocean.

The 400-foot-long rig rising nearly 300 feet above the water dwarfed the flotilla of tiny boats on Thursday, as it passed the city’s Space Needle and downtown skyline and docked at Terminal 5.

The watery protest marked a pivotal moment for an environmental movement increasingly mobilized around climate change, but the scene also suggested how outmatched Shell’s opponents have been as they try to keep the petroleum giant from continuing its $6 billion effort to open new oil and gas reserves in one of the world’s most dangerous maritime environments.

“The environmental issues are big and this is an opportunity to present a David versus Goliath position – the people and the planet versus Shell – and create a national debate about drilling in the Arctic,” said Paul Adler, 52, of Shoreline, who paddled a single white kayak to “unwelcome” the Polar Pioneer.

Environmental groups in the Pacific Northwest are sensing a shift in the politics that surround energy production and have mobilized against a series of projects that would transform the region into a gateway for crude oil and coal exports to Asia.

“These proposals have woken a sleeping giant in the Northwest,” said Eric de Place, policy director for Sightline Institute, a liberal Seattle think tank. “It has unleashed this very robust opposition movement.”

Added Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who joined the so-called kayaktivists on the water Thursday: “Shell’s attempt to use Seattle as a home base for Arctic drilling may be the last battle on the front of Arctic drilling, and the energy I have seen and felt from people in the region is really powerful and it gives me hope that we can stop Arctic drilling.”

hell still needs other permits from state and federal agencies, including one to actually drill offshore in the Arctic and another to dispose of wastewater. But it’s moving ahead meanwhile, using the Port of Seattle to load drilling rigs and a fleet of support vessels with supplies and personnel before spending the brief Arctic summer in the Chukchi Sea, which stretches north from the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia.

Hurricane-force winds and 50-foot seas can quickly threaten even the sturdiest ships in the seas off Alaska. But Shell cleared a major bureaucratic hurdle Monday when the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, after taking public comments and reviewing voluminous reports, approved the multiyear exploration plan.

If exploratory drilling goes well, Shell plans to invest billions more in infrastructure to open this new frontier, building pipelines under the ocean and onto the tundra of Alaska’s North Slope, along with roads, air strips and other facilities.

Shell’s last effort to do exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean also left from Seattle and ended badly. The Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk – a rig Shell had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to customize – were stranded by equipment failures in terrible weather, and the Coast Guard barely rescued the Kulluk’s crew. Federal investigations resulted in guilty pleas and fines for rig owner Noble Drilling.

The Kulluk ended up on a scrap heap in China. Shell is leasing the Polar Pioneer in its stead, again backed by the Noble Discoverer. But Shell says it has gained vital experience and can safely drill on its leases in the Chukchi Sea, as well as the Beaufort Sea, an even more remote stretch north of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith called Monday’s approval an important milestone that “signals the confidence regulators have in our plan.”

Officials in Alaska have welcomed the drilling, even flying to Seattle this week to lobby for Shell’s plan. Labor groups representing port workers noted that Foss Maritime is employing more than 400 people already to service the Shell fleet.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, for his part, is strongly against hosting Shell’s fleet, warning that the port could face daily fines because it lacks the proper permit.

Those fines would amount to no more than $500 a day for the port – a tiny drop in a very large barrel if Shell, one of the world’s largest companies, manages to recover billions of gallons of oil from the Arctic Ocean.

Seattle’s environmentalists, however, have a sense that their time is now.

“Unless people get out there and put themselves on the front lines and say enough is enough, then nothing will ever change,” said Jordan Van Voast, 55. “I’m hopeful that people are waking up.”

When the Kulluk was being prepared in 2012 for Shell’s last Arctic venture, “it wasn’t this big civic moment,” recalled KC Golden, a senior policy adviser for Climate Solutions, an organization advocating for renewable energy.

But “now it is,” Golden said. “That’s a measure of how the awareness has grown. I think it’s a moment for Seattle.”

Travel Scene: Global warming opens Northwest Passage to pleasure cruises

Mon Oct 6, 2014.

Global warming and the resultant melting of parts of the Arctic icecap have opened a new world of travel — a 900-mile, 32-day luxury cruise with fares starting at $20,000.

Crystal Cruises, one of the world’s top-rated cruise lines, has announced that one of its ships, the Crystal Serenety, will traverse the fabled Northwest Passage on this Pacific-to-Atlantic voyage, beginning from Seward, Alaska, through the north part of mainland Canada and the Arctic Ocean to New York City.

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Crystal says it will be the first luxury cruise ship to make this voyage, following the route that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundson discovered some 100 years ago.

Crystal, in press releases, says the journey, in August 2016 will be on “a mystical Pacific-Atlantic sea route far beyond the Arctic Circle that for centuries captured the imagination of kings, explorers and adventurers.”

Part of the reason that the Northwest Passage captured so many imaginations for many centuries, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, was that it was choked with ice and impossible to navigate. But climate change has set off a scramble to control the now-accessible shipping routes and mineral rights.

The Crystal Serenity, Bloomberg says, is simply following the wake of the freighters that are already plying the Arctic.

Climate-change tourism will offer something greatly different than a usual journey. The cruise, notes Bloomberg, will offer passengers kayaking and tundra treks, up-close sightings of polar bears, narwhals, musk oxen and caribou.

“These are encounters,” notes the newsletter, with the inhabitants and distinctive elements of the world that climate change —- the same thing that’s allowing the cruise to take place — is threatening.

Crystal bills the trip as a “once-in-a-lifetime expeditionary voyage that marries extreme wilderness adventure with unsurpassed luxury voyage.” It adds that cruisers “will bear witness to breathtaking landscapes that few have ever seen, from spectacular glaciers to towering fjords and experience nature that is truly wild.”

The cruise line says that two years of extensive planning has gone into the itinerary, balancing days at sea with scheduled ports of call. Designed to be flexible, the cruise will incorporate unplanned “expedition days,” when favorable weather conditions allow. These treks will be led by veteran explorers.

All told, a team of 14 experts, including scientists and an Arctic guide, will be aboard. Ports of call include remote areas of the Canadian Arctic such as Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories and Cambridge Bay in Nunavut.

The cruise sails from Aug. 16 to Sept. 17, 2016. Prices start at $19,975 double occupancy and cabins are on sale.

Crystal’s web site, at crystalcruises.com/NWP-FAQs, offers more information.

Plans set for new Mexico City airport

If you’ve flown into Mexico City’s airport — and we have — you will know that a new airport is needed, and one apparently is on the way.

A new $9.2 billion facility is planned that will quadruple the capacity of the current Benito Juarez Airport. The nation’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto has described the project as Mexico’s largest infrastructure addition in recent years and called it “Mexico’s gateway to the world.”

Travel Weekly reports that the airport will be built on 11,400 acres of federally owned land adjacent to the existing airport and the plan is to handle up to 120 million passengers a year — four times the capacity of the existing facility.

The design of the structure will be unique: The soaring vaulted terminal and lightweight glass and steel structure will be designed in the form of a giant X. No date has been set for the start of the project.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 10:  Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the 86th Academy Awards nominee luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

One of the actors in “Titanic”

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