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Episode 74: Crystal Serenity’s Historic Voyage

By KTVA Alaska 5:00 PM September 25, 2016

When the Crystal Serenity pulled into New York Harbor on Sept. 16 in the early morning light, it signaled the dawn of a new age for the Arctic.

It was the largest ship of its kind to transit the Northwest Passage. The cruise liner carried more than a thousand passengers, outfitted with the latest in sonar and radar technology, as well as two helicopters to scan for ice. The ship made the journey from Seward to New York City in just 32 days.

Compare that to 1906: It took Roald Amundsen, the first explorer to navigate the Northwest Passage, three years to complete his journey in a fishing boat with a crew of six.

Some Crystal Serenity passengers paid more than $100,000 a piece for this historic ride. On this episode of Frontiers, we revisit the ship’s journey and look at what it means to Alaska’s future.

Some of the highlights:

– KTVA meteorologist Melissa Frey retraces the historic route of the ship. The Crystal Serenity had lots of cameras on board, so Melissa compiled some of the cruise liner’s footage to give us a comprehensive look at this adventure – from scenes of the eerie floating ice fields to stops along the way. Melissa also has an overview of current ice conditions in the Arctic.

– Kevin Harun, the Arctic program director for Pacific Environment, weighs in on the impact of the Crystal Serenity’s voyage — how it opens the door to more Arctic shipping traffic, which poses threats to safety and subsistence.

– Our guest is the mayor of Nome, Richard Beneville, who shares his perspective on the visit of the Crystal Serenity to Nome and what’s at stake for his community.

– Also on the show, KTVA’s Heather Hintze takes us to the Alaska Native Heritage Center for a look at how to skin a seal.

Soon, the Arctic ice will begin to close in for the winter. If oceans continue to warm, we’ll see thinner ice form and melt in time for more crossings of the Northwest Passage every summer. In reality, it’s not one route. Each crossing will depend on where the remaining ice exists, with different hazards every year.

Change is happening faster than most of us realize. We hope this program gives you a sense of both the dangers and opportunities to come.

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