The icebreaker Vaygach has just shattered all previous records of making the perilous north coast of Siberia trip, the Northern Sea Route, in just seven and one half days.
According to the news, Vaygach left the Bering Strait, near Alaska, on Dec. 17, and traversed the 2,200 nautical miles to arrive at the White Sea just off the north coast of Finland, by Dec. 25. This beat previous navigation of the northern passage by more than half a day. The speculation for this passage suggests less pack ice owing to global warming may have made the journey easier than before.
The Vaygach (Russian: Вайгач) is a shallow-draught nuclear-powered icebreaker built at the end of the Soviet era. The unique vessel, along with her sister ship, is equipped with Wärtsilä Air Bubbling System (WABS), which uses compressed air bubbles at the ship's waterline to reduce the friction in between the hull and pack ice. Experts now predict that Arctic ice may a thing of the past in a few years, where once huge glaciers and icebergs clogged sea lanes in the north, large sections of the northern seas are free of such obstacles now.
The image above from NASA shows the most popular Northern Passages routes. Since the 1980s on, voyages through the Passage have become an annual event according to Canadian officials. Since then voyages have increased from as few as 4 a year to 30 or more today.