The Hole at 90 degrees N

For the tourists and their scientific guides aboard the Russian icebreaker Yamal, it was an astonishing sight. Just as they approached the North Pole, they spotted a mile-wide hole in the ice. "It was totally unexpected," Harvard oceanographer James McCarthy, one of the scientists on board, later told the New York Times. Paleontologist Malcolm McKenna, of New York City's American Museum of Natural History, said, "I don't know if anybody in history ever got to 90[degrees] north to be greeted by water, not ice." Even more surprising, they saw ivory gulls soaring blithely overhead. The Times itself commented that the last...

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