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Melting ice will change the economics of extracting resources from the Arctic

The massive Goliat oil rig on calm waters in the Barents Sea
Vår Energi
The Goliat oil rig, owned by Vår Energi and Equinor, operating in the Norway-owned section of the Barents Sea.
  • Samanth Subramanian
By Samanth Subramanian

Looking into the Future of Capitalism

Published

The first successful oil drilling expedition in the Arctic nearly began in outright failure.

In the summer of 1944, US Navy engineers called Seabees sailed for Alaska to find oil. The trip was tough from the beginning—storms and ice-laden waters threatened their boats, sank a patrol plane, and threw men overboard. After the Seabees landed in August, the supply ships left quickly, to avoid being iced in.

In the winter, temperatures dropped to nearly -50 degrees Celsius, and blizzards raged over their settlement. The indigenous Alaskans living in the area predicted, as a book about the expedition recalls: “The big Seabee would bury the little ones, and then the Eskimos (sic) would bury the big Seabee.”

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