“Lady Franklin’s Lament” (AKA “Lord Franklin) is a haunting ballad, telling of Lord Franklin’s British Arctic Expedition (1845), an attempt at finding the fabled Northwest Passage. For centuries, that passage has been a dream; climate change is making that dream a reality. First, my favorite version of the song, then my update:
They sought a passage through the frozen seas
Where brave men searched and died for centuries
The dream of merchant-men and sailors too
Amid the icy white, a waterway of blue
To sail from Newfoundland to Beaufort Sea
A Northwest Passage when from ice it’s free
Now rising temperatures and cloudless skies
Have opened channels, and cleared the Passage prize
A land of Eskimo and polar bear
The metal ship is an intruder there
Once thought impossible, a sight so strange
What has happened, to bring about this change?
The lure of money means we’re bound to see
Canada challenged over sovereignty
This Northern treasure, never seen before
The perfect reason, for economic war
The north is changing at a growing pace
Because of challenges we all must face
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell
Now I worry… about our fate as well.
Via NPR this morning, a story on the Northwest Passage. Clearly, one could write entire books on the subject, so any brief story will be necessarily incomplete, but it touches on a number of interesting bits. For me the most frightening is that the US sees the Northwest Passage as international waters, and Canada sees it as an internal waterway. Oh, and we can add to this the notion that perhaps a fifth of the world’s oil might lie under Arctic ice.
Think about that.