That an Irish-built yacht Northabout has circumnavigated the Arctic in just seven weeks is a remarkable achievement by everyone involved, including Barbara Fitzpatrick (49), from Ballybay, Co Monaghan, who has become the first Irish woman to sail through both the Northeast and Northwest passages.
But this record-breaking trip was only made possible due to the steep decline in summer sea ice in the Arctic region. Indeed, Northabout builder Jarlath Cunnane was shocked by the rapidity of its voyage, having taken two summers to navigate these passages more than 10 years ago.
“We would never have imagined that within 14 years of setting out on our two-season voyage, climate change could have such an impact,” he said.
Last month, Arctic sea ice shrank to its second-lowest level since scientists began satellite monitoring, in what is widely seen as another ominous sign of global warming, and there is even speculation that it could vanish altogether in summertime by 2030.
The United Nations Environment Programme has noted that warming in the Arctic has increased at double the global average rate since 1980, driven largely by the interacting forces of climate change and human activities. It warned that this "profound transformation" is already having "important impacts".
Truly, summer sea ice in the Arctic is the canary in the coal mine in terms of global warming. The more it melts away, the more perilous for us all.