Arctic: Fight for the Top Of the World

As global warming melts the Arctic ice, dreams of a short sea passage to Asia--and riches beneath the surface--have been revived. With Russia planting a flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole, Canada talking tough and Washington wanting to be a player, who will win the world's new Great Game?

Uriel Sinai / Getty

Melted water runs over a glacier in Greenland.

At the end of August, a wisp of flame suddenly appeared in the Arctic twilight over the Barents Sea, bathing the low clouds over the Norwegian port of Hammerfest in a spectral orange glow. With a tremendous roar, the flame bloomed over the windswept ocean and craggy gray rocks, competing for an instant with the Arctic summer's never-setting sun. The first flare-off of natural gas from the Snohvit (Snow White in Norwegian) gas field, some 90 miles (145 km) offshore, was a beacon of promise: After 25 years of false starts, planning and construction, the first Arctic industrial oil-and-gas operation outside...

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