2. Background to the NSR
History reveals that the opening of a single sea route can send shock waves around the world, transforming the economic, social, legal and even political systems of the countries affected. When Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa in a long and grueling sea voyage, he ushered in several centuries of lucrative trade that produced turbulent social conditions throughout Africa and Asia and profoundly affected the nations of Europe.
Today, when the facts about our small planet are so well publicized, some observers have suggested that the immediate impact on the world economy of the opening of an NSR would not be as powerful as that of the opening of the southern route and construction of the Suez Canal. In the long term, however, as resources are developed in regions adjacent to the route, the possibility is undeniable that the NSR may one day redraw the map of the global economy.
To assess the potential value and impact of the opening of this new commercial shipping route, a wide range of perspectives is needed. We have to look at the relevant history, covering not only the natural conditions in the affected land and sea areas but social aspects as well. Equally important is a clear assessment of progress in the development of nautical technology.
2.1 Historical Background
2.1.1 From ancient times to the voyage of Nordenskjold
It is impossible to have a fruitful discussion of the present state of matters involving natural phenomena or human affairs, or to forecast their development in the future, without an adequate understanding of the historical background. History is the compass by which we navigate the shoals of long-term forecasting to imagine what the ideal state of a system would be like.
The indigenous peoples of North America
The history of the Artic Circle has its roots in the arrival of the indigenous peoples of the region. These include the Innu, the Athebascan or Dene nation and the coastal-dwelling hunter communities of the Inuit. Traces of the movement of these peoples can be found throughout the Arctic. Even among people who lived far from Arctic shores, the existence of ice-covered seas in the far north was well known. Passages describing a frozen sea are seen, for example, in classical Greek literature. In fact, it is known that Greek and Roman geographers and astronomers in the 4th and 5th centuries BC deduced from the layout of the known world and the distribution of hot and cold weather therein that a frozen ocean must exist in the north. Over the passage of time, fragmentary evidence from first-hand experience of the northern ice fields trickled southward. Until well into the Christian era, no planned or deliberate efforts were made to find this sea of ice; rather, the ancients came about this information haphazardly, from accidental finds of flotsam and the like.