Hugh Pickens writes "Andrew Revkin writes in the NY Times that since 1553, when Sir Hugh Willoughby led an expedition north in search of a sea passage over Russia to the Far East, mariners have dreamed of a Northern Sea Route through Russia's Arctic ocean that could cut thousands of miles compared with alternate routes. A voyage between Hamburg and Yokohama is only 6,600 nm. via the Northern Sea Route — less than 60% of the 11,400 nm. Suez route. Now in part because of warming and the retreat and thinning of Arctic sea ice in summer, this northern sea route is becoming a reality with the 12,700-ton 'Beluga Fraternity,' designed for a mix of ice and open seas, poised to make what appears to be the first such trip. The German ship picked up equipment in Ulsan, South Korea, on July 23 and arrived in Vladivostok on the 25th with a final destination at the docks in Novyy Port, a Siberian outpost. After that, if conditions permit, it will head to Antwerp or Rotterdam, marking what company officials say would be the first time a vessel has crossed from Asia to Europe through the Arctic on a commercial passage."