A Chinese icebreaker ship has crossed the Arctic and docked in Reykjavik Harbour.
The event, in which the Xuelong vessel – meaning Snow Dragon – successfully navigated Arctic waters along the Russian coastline, marks the first ever Chinese crossing of the Arctic Ocean and highlights the country’s prominent interest in the region.
Experts say that growing Arctic interest in China and several other nations come as significant ice melt has opened the possibility of new trade links between Asia and the West.
Chinese officials said upon arrival in Iceland that the sailing was much easier than had been anticipated due to the lack of ice.
Expedition head Huigen Yang said on behalf of the Polar Research Institute of China, “To our astonishment … most part of the Northern Sea Route is open,” Reuters reports. He went on to say that the Chinese government and investors were showing increasing interest in the “monumental change” taking place in the Arctic.
Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson echoed the astonishment in a speech, saying, “The (Chinese) journey indicates a growing interest in the melting of the ice in the northern regions and how climate change is affecting the globe and the future of all nations.”
The Chinese efforts come amid the country’s application to become part of the Arctic Council, which is currently overseen by Iceland and several nations with territory or coastlines within the Arctic Circle, namely Russia, the Untied States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.