BAR HARBOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — For the first time in history, a cruise ship sailed through the Northwest Passage. Before it reached its final destination, the ship, “Crystal Serenity,” stopped in Bar Harbor.
The Northwest Passage is a series of straights and channels that pass between Canada’s 19,000 Arctic Islands and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Passengers, Dottie and Gary Johanson signed up for the cruise two years in advance. The couple said they would not have missed it for anything.
“We had no idea how spectacular this cruise would be and how historic it would be,” Mrs. Johanson said.
The couple is originally from Maryland, but they’ve joined 900 people from all over the world on this journey.
Although they have made many friends on the ship during their 32-day cruise, they said meeting the indigenous people throughout the voyage was the most memorable experience.
Mr. Johanson recalled the experience as eye-opening, but this expedition would not have happened if it were not for climate change, according to College of the Atlantic professor Dr. Sean Todd.
“Rising sea levels are a result of melting ice caps, which is the reason why vessels of this size are now able to travel across the Northwest Passage,” he said.
Although the cruise has been an incredible experience for passengers, Todd worries that major cruise lines could harm the ecosystem.
“It’s usually not a matter of if things go wrong but when things go wrong," he said. "We have to be concerned about oil spills, we have to be concerned about various kinds of water discharge, black water and gray water discharge, which isn’t necessarily the case with this cruise ship, but things like that need to be regulated."
Todd praised the cruise operators for leaving behind barely any trace of a carbon footprint. He said if other ships can follow the same example then the Northwest Passage ecosystem can survive.
“Crystal Serenity” arrived just two weeks before Maine welcomes more than 250 people from across the globe for meetings of the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council is the leading forum that promotes cooperation among Arctic states. Maine was chosen to host these meetings because of the state’s significant engagement in the Arctic region.
For more information on Maine’s growing connection to the Arctic region, visit maineandthearctic.com.