Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bad reporting about the Northwest Passage issue.

There is nothing that that spreads faster than a global warming scare story even when it is false. I’ve investigated several of the bogus claims here over the last year or so. Those can be found here, here, here, here and here. Now for the newest story. The famed Northwest Passage is now open, supposedly for the first time, so that a ship can actually make the journey.

The BBC dramatically reported on September 14 that: “The most direct shipping route from Europe to Asia is fully clear of ice for the first time since records began.” They are a bit dicey about when those records began or what records they are referring to. In fact it is satellite records of the passage that were started in 1978. So they mean for the first time since 1978. They leave out the date for the start of the records. Note: The report now mentions 1978, if it was there when I read it two days ago I didn't see it. However, many, many other reports have left the date out.

The first time!!!! Really? How can they say that? They actually reported on September 10, 2000 that: “A Canadian police patrol boat has completed a voyage through the fabled Northwest Passage without encountering any pack ice.”

How many “first times” are there at the BBC? Is this the environmental equivalent being a virgin, again?

National Geographic reports the Passage “is ice free for the first time since satellite records began in 1978”. Alas, the 2000 report from the BBC reports a previous first time. But at least National Geographic mentioned that the records in question only began in 1978, unlike the BBC which carefully excluded that key fact.

Slashdot announced “Impassable Northwest Passage Opens For First Time in History”. Canada.com referred to the Passage as the “historically impassable maritime shortcut”. Associated Press reported that the ice melt is “raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.” Saying it eluded them is pretty clear. No one has ever been through the Northwest Passage because of heavy ice.

The Melbourne Herald-Sun called the Passage “the dreamed of yet historically impassable maritime shortcut...” The environmental site Environmental Graffiti reports that “Explorers have searched for it for centuries and failed.” The it being the Northwest Passage. But they report that now it has been discovered thanks to “our malignant little friend: global warming.” The New York Post has also told the world that until now, the Northwest Passage has “eluded explorers”. And Scientific American has called this a “historically impassable route”.

You get the drift. The world’s media is saying variations on the same theme. Google news shows almost 1,300 outlets reporting this story. The basic claim is that the Passage is passable today and this is the first time in recorded history. Some mention that the recorded history is since 1978, while others make it sound like this is the first since human history began, a much longer period and a far more dramatic claim. Either claim is false. As noted the BBC reported the exact same story in 2000.

We should also look at the claim that the ice has always been so thick that the Northwest Passage has been “historically impassable”. Most attempts by explorers to find this passage happened during the Little Ice Age. I would think they would have had great difficulty making it through the Passage under ice age conditions. But are they saying that after the Little Ice Age ended that no one has made it through the Passage? They seem to be.

The problem is that ships have sailed through the Northwest Passage before today and long before a police patrol did it in 2000. It has happened several times. The historically impassable route has been passed through numerous times for over a century now.

Here is a photo of the St. Roch. It’s a wooden ship, not some massive, metallic icebreaker. According to the Vancouver Maritime Museum web site, this 104 foot wooden ship sailed through the Northwest Passage from 1940 to 1942, that was from west to east. In 1944 it did it again from from east to west. King George VI awarded Captain Henry Larsen, and the crew, the Polar Medal for making the 1944 voyage.

The Maritime Museum also includes a little information about the Northwest Passage as well. And they specifically mention that the famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen “became the first person to sail the entire Passage from east to west” and that was in 1906.

Remember that police patrol boat that went through the Passage on the other “first” time in 2000? It was actually named the St. Roch II. It sailed the same route as the first St. Roch as a fund raiser to help preserve the original ship. They were re-enacting the previous voyage from 60 years earlier.

The USS Storis made the journey in 1957 as this US Coast Guard history of the ship mentions. They do claim, falsely, that this trip “ended a 450-year search for the Northwest Passage” neglecting to mention the St. Roch did it twice before them and Amundsen did so as well. Here is a photo of the Storis during its 1957 trip through the Northwest Passage.

A Dutch businessman, Willy de Roos, 56, made a solo voyage through the Northwest Passage in 1977 and you can see a Canadian Broadcasting Network clip on the journey here. They have another report on the S.S. Manhattan making the trip through the Passage in 1969

I shouldn’t neglect to mention that a couple of Canadians, Mike Beedell and Jeffrey MacInnis, sailed through the Northwest Passage using a catamaran with wind power only. That was in 1988. And in 1985 there was a diplomatic row between the US and Canada because the ship, the Polar Sea, was setting sail through the Northwest Passage and hadn’t asked Canadian permission. The US argued it was international waters and Canada said it wasn’t.

Even tourists on the M.V. Lindblad, a Swedish ship, have traveled through the Northwest Passage. They did it with luxurious food and in comfort. The trip was a 40 day trip from Newfoundland to Japan via the Passage and cost the tourists $16,000 to $22,000 in 1984! You can even hear the captain being interviewed by Canadian radio saying that the ice is in retreat and the water is open. That was back during the time when the panic mongers were pushing the global cooling theory. The Lindblad made a second trip through the Passage in 1988.

In 1977 another Canadian ship, with four Canadians, made the trip through the Passage as well. At one point of their trip they sailed together with the Dutch businessman who was making the solo trip. So you had two different ships traveling through the “historically impassable” Passage at the same time. I guess that is the Passage’s equivalent of a rush hour.

With just a few minutes of research I have been able to compile twelve cases of vessels traveling through the Northwest Passage. Yet major media outlets from around the world are pretending that such trips have never been possible until this year. The BBC didn’t even check their own web site.

Once “global warming” is mentioned all critical faculties are shut down in the media. They don’t verify facts. They just repeat the claims that are made.

We simply don’t know if the Northwest Passage has been relatively ice free before the 1978 satellite data started being collected. But we do have two different BBC reports, in two different years, each claiming the Passage was ice free “for the first time”. Before 1978 we don’t know. It is pure guesswork. But given that the planet has been much warmer than today, in the past, it is likely the Passage has been ice free on many occasions.

Regardless of that, the history of ships traveling through the Northwest Passage has been well documented. This is not conjecture or guessing. It is a historical fact. We’ve had small wooden ships do it, luxury tourist boats, a solo voyage, and numerous other incidents, all of which I have documented here.

The only reason I can think of that explains why journalists, who repeated the false claims of this story, didn’t bother to do any research is because these claims have been linked to global warming. They don’t want to be called “deniers” by the warming alarmists. Global warming to the Left is what “terrorism” is to the Right. It is an issue that is meant to be so scary that one is supposed to close down their mind, repeat the slogans, and obey.

Notice: To receive a regular email notification of any new material on this blog please go here for more information. Subscribers will only receive notices about changes to the blog and the email addresses will not be used by others.