Welcome to the Northwest Passage Project Exploring a Changing Arctic

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Satellite image of part of the Northwest Passage.
Satellite image of the Northwest Passage taken on August 9, 2016. NASA, Suomi NPPP

Welcome to the Northwest Passage Project: Exploring a Changing Arctic (NPP). At the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (URI/GSO) Inner Space Center (ISC) we are very excited about this project. It is a unique collaboration between documentary filmmaking, oceanographic research, education, history, sail training, and real-time communication. The poles have always held a fascination for humanity and many expeditions have been launched to explore both the Arctic and the Antarctic. They are critical regions to investigate now as the polar regions are changing much more rapidly then the rest of the Earth. The Arctic and Antarctic are however each unique.

One difference is that there are people living in the Arctic. The NPP will be stopping at some of the Inuit communities in the Canadian Territory of Nunavut where we hope to learn about Inuit culture and history. In addition, we will have some members of the Inuit community aboard the ship during our expedition. Having the perspective of the people who live in the Arctic is essential for any discussion of the changing Arctic region.

Visualization of Arctic Ocean with geographic labels

Visualization of the Arctic Ocean with ice extent shown for September 9, 2011 – ice minimum that year. Map adapted from originals by Trent Schindler, Scientific Visualization Studio, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA.

Further, there are a wealth of historic sites that we will visit, where there is evidence of the many futile attempts to find a northwest passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. These stark reminders of the explorers before us should provide a perspective on the dramatic differences we will see and document in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

At the beginning of August, it will be light 24 hours a day as we start our cruise in the Nunavut Territory; and by the time we reach Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, it will be light for right around 17 hours. Just as the daylight will change dramatically during our expedition, so I expect our understanding of the Arctic, its people, and its history will have changed.

 

Christopher KnowltonChristopher Knowlton is the Assistant Director Inner Space Center. For the Northwest Passage Project he is the Science Coordinator. Chris is a marine geologist and paleoclimatologist.

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