The far north has been slow in joining the modern world. It is just three hundred years since the Hudson's Bay Company was granted a charter in London to "trade into Hudson's Bay" and the Muscovy Company had been active in northern Russia even earlier. Both were incidental dividends of the search for a practicable direct sea route from western Europe to the Orient This objective has still not been achieved, for there is as yet no normally operating international seaway either by way of the Northwest Passage across the top of North America or through the Northeast Passage north of the U.S.S.R., although the latter is used fairly regularly in summer by Soviet vessels. The 1969 voyage of the U.S. tanker Manhattan from the Atlantic to the north coast of Alaska and back dramatized the persisting need for such a short northerly passage. It also emphasized that ice, which made the route impassable for centuries, remains a formidable obstacle.
Contemporary activity in the North-particularly in the North American Arctic-renews the concerted assault on the region that has until now always failed. There are many who believe that the present attack cannot but succeed because the economic need is now urgent and the technology required has been mastered. This has of course yet to be demonstrated in commercial terms, and success may still elude us.
There are many possible definitions of the area loosely referred to as "The North." Best known but rarely accepted as satisfactory is that region lying north of the Arctic Circle, which parallels the equator at 66°30'N. latitude, about 1600 miles from the North Pole. The line has no particular meaning geographically except as marking the southerly limit of the midnight sun. Within the circle are lands as diverse as the ice-capped plateau of Greenland and the commercial soft-wood forests of northern Sweden. Seas well to the north of the Circle off western Norway are ice- free throughout the year, but in similar latitudes in
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