CASCO BAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Throughout the week, officials from all over the world are meeting in Portland to discuss issues affecting the Arctic, from how indigenous people survive the region to global warming.

In the midst of the meetings, visitors got a ride on one of Maine's historic vessels, the Schooner Bowdoin, built in the 1920s for arctic exploration.

"They were exploring a very fragile ecosystem that people are still trying to understand while it changes before our eyes," said Susan Kaplan, an anthropology professor at Bowdoin College.

It's that ecosystem that the entire country is focused on this week, during a summit held for the first time in Maine.

"With the Northeast Passage opening, Maine could become an even more vital seaport for our country as shipping picks up in the arctic," said Admiral Bob Papp, the U.S. State Department's Special Representative for the Arctic.

The Bowdoin's rich history is now used to carrying future explorers out to sea, through Maine Maritime Academy.

"The Bowdoin has been helping us out with our Arctic Youth Ambassadors, high school students here, we need to develop an interest in the Arctic with our younger generation," said Admiral Papp. "They'll be the next watch, they'll be the next group of leaders in the future that have to deal with these issues."

Maine Maritime Academy has done a lot of work to restore the Bowdoin and keep it in the sea. MMA has started fundraising to continue that work.