In 1957 the Coast Guard cutter Spar, on which your editor would later serve as operations officer, made the first deep draft voyage through the Northwest Passage in the company of two Canadian Coast Guard cutters. Above the welcome home the Spar got. Except for Raoul Amundssen who crossed the top of Canada aboard his vessel Gjoa no ship succeeded in this venture before. The story below tells you how normal this has become in less than 60 years.
WCSH, ME - The first training program in the United States for navigating Arctic ice has been developed by Maine Maritime Academy. Students at MMA just completed the first semester-long class, developed by Capt. Ralph Pundt, a retired merchant marine tanker captain and professor at MMA.
The new program was created at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard as part of a Dept. of Homeland Security grant to the University of Alaska and Maine Maritime. "The ice is disappearing quickly," says Pundt about Arctic ice that has been steadily retreating as temperatures in that region become warmer.
He says the fabled Northwest Passage, a shortcut from Atlantic to Pacific that was once impossible to navigate, has now become a summer reality. Because sailing that route could dramatically shorten the time for ships to cross from Europe or the east coast of the U.S. to Asia, Pundt and the students say the Coast Guard wants officers in the merchant marine to be trained to handle the Arctic ice.