Shipping Corridors Through the Inuit Homeland

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Arctic Shipping, Maritime Chokepoints, Polar Shipping, Icebreaking, Inuit, Canada


Long before the waters and shores of what is known today as Canada’s Arctic archipelago were explored and surveyed, Europeans imagined a waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through or near the North Pole. But the archipelago shuttered hopes of easy passage. Its islands created conditions for longer sea-ice seasons and, together with continental shorelines, led to ice-clogged straits well into summer. Although the early European imagination lost out to geophysical reality, sea-ice melt accompanying 21st-century climate change has rekindled the prospect of navigation through the Northwest Passage. Projections indicate thinning ice in summer, sparking hopes for shorter inter-oceanic routes for cargo and new resource frontiers for mining, fishing, and the cruise-ship industry. Maritime administrators in the Canadian government have begun identifying corridors where shipping traffic may be directed, as well as areas and times where icebreaking would be necessary. However, this often has occurred without taking sufficient account of Inuit uses and understanding of these marine spaces. To embrace these worldviews is to fundamentally rethink the “frozen” nature of the Arctic archipelago and its many chokepoints.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.