Articles, Blog

Cold Wars, Cruise Ships, and the Northwest Passage

November 8, 2019

I’m in Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, the last stop on my Arctic voyage. It is one of the most northern and coldest
inhabited places in the world, and the only reason I’m allowed to film here
right now is because we have someone on polar bear watch. There is some evidence of prehistoric settlement here, but this town didn’t exist until 1947, when the US and Canada built a weather station
here, and it wasn’t populated until 1953, when the government of Canada forcibly resettled
Inuit from Northern Quebec here as part of a power play in the Cold War. The High Arctic relocation is a dark chapter
in Canada’s history, and the stories of those who were moved into
appalling conditions, are tales best told by people who were there,
not some British tourist. There are links in the description for context, and I strongly recommend you watch them. But what I can talk about is why the 1950s
Canadian government thought it was worth uprooting people from
their homes and moving them this far north. The North Pole, and most of the Arctic Ocean,
are international waters. There’s no land below the ice, so they’re treated the same as the Atlantic
or Pacific. But unlike countries further south, where it’s easy to say where your coastline
ends and the sea begins, up here in the north it’s a little bit more
complicated. In the fifties, there was an open legal question: if no one lived on these northern islands, if they’re not even habitable, could they really be part of Canada? Particularly when the United States is sending
hundreds of soldiers up here to stake a claim, to shore up the defense
against Soviet Russia. The shortest route from Russia to America
for aircraft carrying nuclear bombs, and later, for intercontinental ballistic
missiles, was over the North Pole. Over here. Over Resolute. And while the Canadian government were happy
to co-operate with America, they were not about to risk being pushed out. The government’s solution, back then: move some people who they think don’t matter, and make it clear to the world: this is Canadian territory. Look. Canadians live here. The repercussions from that still go on today, and so does the argument about sovereignty
up here: just for different reasons. Because while the Cold War has ended, and missiles will hopefully not be flying
over the North Pole any time soon, there is now a very different question. Climate change means that the Northwest Passage, the once legendary sea route through the north
of Canada, is now theoretically open for shipping a few
months a year. The north of Canada is not just frozen ice
that goes all the way to the pole, and most of the maps you see are really misleading. This here is one of a cluster of islands, nowhere near as big as they look on most maps, and if there’s no ice between them, it’s
a shortcut. The Arctic is now a possible route between
Europe and the west coast of America, instead of going through the Panama Canal: and that cuts over 4000 miles off the journey. And the first cruise ship has already gone
through: by the time you watch this, it will have gone
through. And it’s not an old icebreaker with a hundred
people on it like I’m travelling on, but a massive cruise ship with thousands of
people, eight restaurants, and a casino. Like it or not, this town, this space here: this is part of a tourist route now. Now, Canada says some of the Northwest Passage
is part of their territorial waters, almost like a big, wide river. Anyone going through should be cleared with
them, be subject to Canadian law, and perhaps in
future, they should pay a tax. The US and Europe? They say it’s international waters and they
can do whatever they want. And the consequences could be serious: if this does become a major shipping route, then sooner or later there’s going to be
a major shipping accident, particularly if climate change brings unpredictable
storms to the ocean here. The idea of more oil being spilled in the
Arctic is worrying a lot of people. In a few decades, as the ice melts, more channels
open, and drilling for oil and gas becomes possible, our next international battles, political or otherwise, might be for the Arctic: not just about who owns it, but for its entire
future. Hi, I’m Chris Hadfield, this is… I’m Tom Scott! This is Tom Scott, we’re here in the Arctic. That’s it from Generator Arctic! That’s all! Thank you very much! It’s been an incredible experience, thanks
for coming along, and go the web site that’s written, you can
see all the details. And go see their show, Massey Hall, November
12th… November 12th in Toronto! Chris, there’s the camera,
take it, go for it! Take it, submerge it, go! Hey, it’s not so bad!

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  • Reply ZeGaskMask September 30, 2016 at 2:05 am

    Is it just me or does it seem like tom is trying to get closer and closer to the North Pole? If he manages to get there will he meet santa?

  • Reply WrathOfMega September 30, 2016 at 2:06 am

    Question; how does Tom get to do all these things? I mean, are half of his 600k subs scientists?

  • Reply HamzaSayedAli September 30, 2016 at 2:09 am

    All arctic is belongs to Canada!!!!!

  • Reply KK B September 30, 2016 at 2:12 am

    thanks tom for the video. your Arctic videos are great.

  • Reply mPky1 September 30, 2016 at 2:27 am

    I wonder why other countries with archepelogos dont try the internatl waters thing that Canada is doing. Im thinking of the Caribbean, Indonesia or maybe the Philippines or Japan.

  • Reply joseph10097 September 30, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Amazing video! Thanks for sharing this expedition with us Tom! 🙂 Love from Australia.

  • Reply Buggaton September 30, 2016 at 3:23 am

    i guess arctic waters aren't quite as cold as space

  • Reply SilverNiKr September 30, 2016 at 4:06 am

    I want to get on that cruise ship.

  • Reply Erik Van der Zee September 30, 2016 at 4:55 am

    Know why they call it Nunavut?

    Because that's how much of it is habitable.

  • Reply certee September 30, 2016 at 5:03 am

    Who is this guy in a black jacket, I'm so confused

  • Reply colpugno7 September 30, 2016 at 5:06 am

    awesome video!

  • Reply Robin P September 30, 2016 at 5:17 am


  • Reply canguar September 30, 2016 at 5:54 am

    Quick side note: the ocean floor beneath the arctic shouldn't be contested. there is a treaty that clearly states who gets what

  • Reply oplu45 September 30, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Good old Atco…

  • Reply Adam Thornton September 30, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Given that the people who moved their presumably weren't huge fans of the Canadian state, I'm not sure that them being there should give Canada a stronger claim to the islands than if they were uninhabited.

  • Reply Ben D September 30, 2016 at 10:53 am

    If anybody deserves the title of all round legend it Chris Hadfield.

  • Reply Colin Ely September 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Stay away from the Kool Aid! Climate Change? Global Warming? What Bullshit! We are more likely to be heading into another Climate Minimum ??!!

  • Reply Ashley Tokar September 30, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Did he just explain Fallout's resource wars?

  • Reply DJ September 30, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    My dad worked in Alert, which is in Nunavut.
    His job in the navy was surveillance of Russian airport communications. It was a very secretive job since he was working during the cold war.

  • Reply anne lockets September 30, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    rain storm and snow is beautiful, i wish it snowed in all countries everyday

  • Reply BritMonkey September 30, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Do you remember the scripts or do you have a teleprompter?

  • Reply Evan B September 30, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Fuggin Chris Hadfield.

  • Reply Joe F September 30, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    I knew this

  • Reply Pussy Lord September 30, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks to this channel I'm getting smarter everyday

  • Reply OldePhart September 30, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    wow. you can die a happy man now. What an opportunity you had.

  • Reply Alpha Road Christmas Lights 2 September 30, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    This is trending!!!

  • Reply Top Gear, 50 a gram September 30, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Im studying the cold was in history pretty hype!

  • Reply Dan Lyle September 30, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I'm so sorry but I found it so irritating how Tom used what I think is a US/Canadian English pronunciation of "missile"

  • Reply Dan Lyle September 30, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    Eh it's not so bad – Chris Hadfield 2k16

  • Reply Ale Blanco September 30, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    chris hardfield is badass

  • Reply Bluescribes September 30, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    you should do a video with tomska because your names sound similar.

  • Reply MattShnoop October 1, 2016 at 3:33 am

    Why is there never any good news about the Arctic? :/

  • Reply The holy spirit October 1, 2016 at 5:46 am

    I'm strangely obsessed with tom's videos

  • Reply Deano October 1, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Another great vid Tom 🙂 Can't wait to see what youupload in the near future 🙂

  • Reply Daily Pet October 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    what? us and Eu disagree with Canada?

  • Reply Cai Jones October 1, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Tom on your Steam glitch video you said that you were going to do a collaboration with someone, did you ever do that or were you not able to find a decent person to collaborate with.

  • Reply Gareth Stack October 1, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    What camera is this filmed on? It looks great.

  • Reply napa modesto October 1, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Cold War over? Think again.

  • Reply George Holt October 1, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    "hey it's not so bad" Chris Hadfield is hilarious

  • Reply Fernando Torre October 2, 2016 at 2:06 am

    well, that was uplifting

  • Reply wLaser October 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

    At 1:29 it looks like the canadian flag in the back is broken

  • Reply Zephyrus411 October 5, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Canada needs to step up their game or they will be cast aside as a weakling nation.

  • Reply jevicci October 5, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    "If no one lived on these northern islands, if they're not even habitable, could they really be part of Canada?"  I don't understand this question.  Why is that even a question?  Of course they can be part of Canada.  There are countless uninhabited locations that are unquestionably understood to be part of countries.  Can someone explain this to me?

  • Reply jevicci October 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Why does Tom always just walk away from the cameraman at the end like that.  So rude!  He's like, "OK, I'm done, I don't need you anymore cameraman, have a nice life, I don't care, whatever, I have something else to do over there."  (I'm not serious, btw)

  • Reply Tom Nyström October 6, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Man I love Chris Hadfield, what an inspiration.

  • Reply Brandon Garrick October 7, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Get a haircut mate barbers only do it for 9 quid

  • Reply Andrew Pennebaker October 7, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    could video about the ding-ding tritone iOS 10.0 bug.

  • Reply jooe 15 October 8, 2016 at 8:11 am

    This guy would look a lot better if he had a red shirt on.

  • Reply dan b October 10, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Tom Scott you should do a video of a massive rail freight in Australia with the massive coal and iron ore network with massively long electric coal fields and freight across the the dessert to Western Australia

  • Reply Captain Radd October 11, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Tom has such a nice presentation manner. Very professional.

  • Reply Schlomobotics October 16, 2016 at 4:08 am

    Hey Tom. One day, you should do a video based on how you choose topics, research them, and prepare one of your shows. I think it can really help people learn how to do short video essays like you do, a lot better than they currently are. Thanks.

  • Reply Philip Alexander Hassialis October 17, 2016 at 4:49 am

    And then the video ends.

    And suddenly out of nowhere, Major Tom steps in.

  • Reply Sambobadger October 18, 2016 at 12:01 am

    94, 120, Interesting system of house numbering.

  • Reply Phoenix Phyre October 19, 2016 at 2:53 am

    polar bear watch without a rifle…

  • Reply mummyrussia October 26, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Tom I love you! You're so smart, I'm addicted to your Chanel!!! (Esp the language stuff!)

  • Reply Gabriel Eick October 27, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    do you type norwegian tomscott?

  • Reply andrecampana_ October 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    It's freaking Chris Hadfield!

  • Reply Neil Wilson October 27, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Sorry, just had to pop away to look at a map. I like maps. There should be one in every video. Anyway, you're right. It's very North.

  • Reply jmalmsten November 2, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Hey, there's a big lane of water between he north pole and canada, possibly littered with icebergs. Let's drive giant cruise-ships filled with thousands of civilians through there! So big that they could be named after the Titans of Greek mythology.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Reply Kenneth Sörling November 9, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I'm impressed by your presentation skills. Not only did you talk for almost four and a half minutes without stuttering or fumbling your lines; it was done in one fluid, continuous shot. Not as easy as it looks.

  • Reply TheClassyBandit December 5, 2016 at 5:14 am

    The problem with the Northern Passage is that it is technically within Canada's borders. A country had full rights to anything within the economic zone of their waters (212 nautical miles). But let's say we rule that out. Most islands are within 12 nautical miles of each other, some have military bases, national parks, and military training grounds on them. They are in use, the Northwest passage is even constantly patrolled by the Canadian Coast Guard.

  • Reply thewhoppinator December 8, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    So nice to see two of my heroes together!

  • Reply R . H January 5, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Chris Hadfield is my cousin

  • Reply John Ransom January 10, 2017 at 2:58 am

    When a Canadian says the water isn't so bad, it's really cold.

  • Reply balamstudios January 10, 2017 at 4:22 am

    That was very interested, however you somehow confuse America with USA. America is the whole continent.

  • Reply Alex Trusk January 10, 2017 at 10:15 am

    cold war? u mean like, uh, really cold?

  • Reply Noah Lear January 10, 2017 at 11:59 am

    America has tens of thousands of completely barren islands in the Pacific.

  • Reply Lincoln Ho | January 10, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Welcome to Canada!

  • Reply SpitefulAZ January 14, 2017 at 7:25 pm


  • Reply BoggyBolt January 17, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Watches 4 minute video, 8 minutes pass -.-

  • Reply Mega Charizard Z January 28, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    the northwest passage is internal Canadian waters

  • Reply Michael on Youtube January 29, 2017 at 4:05 am

    they should tax or receive a toll for anything going through since if anything were to go wrong, like an oil spill, it would fall on Canadians to pay to fix it. Also any profits earn could be used to maintain the passage with ice breakers and stuff.

  • Reply Zodish777 January 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm


  • Reply Andrew Tolmasoff February 22, 2017 at 6:25 am

    Dude, your respect for other people's history is incredible. Just the fact you didn't want to explain history that isn't very relevant to you… humbling. I sit and watch your videos with my Son often. My main focus in life is to feed him with as much knowledge as possible, and he loves it! And you make that very easy!

    Thanks for all you do Tom!

  • Reply Connor Wood February 24, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Why is Kanu reeves on polarbear watch

  • Reply David C March 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    3:34…husky 🙂

  • Reply MarcusBurkenhare April 3, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Attention mes amis! Regardez-vous les bear polar!
    Sorry, just had a Cabin Pressure moment there.

  • Reply Joe C April 15, 2017 at 1:59 am

    I just worked out the distance on Google Earth, and Amsterdam to Long Beach, CA is very close to 8,900 miles (statute… web GE isn't cool like that with picking units, otherwise I'd measure everything in leagues) going panama or northwest passage. You don't really save much in travel length, plus the NWP risks icebergs and much rougher seas just to save on canal fees… doesn't seem such a great trade off. On the other hand, Vancouver and Seattle are 2,000 mi closer via NWP so that's probably pretty good.

  • Reply Blaze Grabowski June 21, 2017 at 1:13 am

    While it is true that ice in the arctic is melting, Ice in Antarctica is actually increasing

  • Reply tchevrier July 19, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    the northwest passage is part of Canada despite what anyone says.

  • Reply Fletcher Lucas July 23, 2017 at 4:40 am

    Tom collabed with an astronaut? Chris Hadfield is awesome. He seems like a really down to earth guy. I loved seeing Chris doing stuff on the ISS.

  • Reply Tungsten Dioxide August 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    I was paying zero attention, then chris hadfield appeared

  • Reply Alex November 14, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    3:20 set off my siri

  • Reply JonatasAdoM February 20, 2018 at 3:08 am

    The war ended but the cold stays.

  • Reply Kiskeya Life April 30, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Wait, was that Even Hadfield on polarbear watch?

  • Reply Gamer_Gawd June 27, 2018 at 2:00 am


  • Reply Vaga 42 November 5, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Newfoundland is going to make soo much money when the north west passage really starts up

  • Reply Kingstad March 19, 2019 at 3:08 am

    So I did a search, and the cruise ship in question did do the trip but only that one, why? Quote from article: The northern voyage of the Serenity, although a success, was not without backlash. Many experts pointed out that rescuing passengers on such a ship would cost millions, not to mention the impact such a ship, with more than a 1,000 people on it, would have on the delicate environment, and of course the impacts on communities in the region. It would also be remiss not to mention the impacts that an oil spill from such a ship would have in remote northern waters, where clean-up would not only be costly but drawn out.

  • Reply larrymbs April 17, 2019 at 1:07 am

    Good vid

  • Reply Capt Zoom May 4, 2019 at 1:19 am

    Why would anybody live there it seems like they're all inside most of the time kind of life is that

  • Reply MrEd May 29, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Sad that such a smart guy like Tom buys the global warming crap. That route is frozen solid again. The ice formation areas and melt in the artic has akways been variable.

  • Reply Bert van Delft June 13, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    The cold war is over but viewing this video it still cold. Extremely cold…

  • Reply Totally Not A Cylon June 14, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Only just noticed the fact that Tom added motion graphics following Chris Hadfield's hand to the link at the end

  • Reply Buggs July 9, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Start buying up property in Resolute eh?

  • Reply Robert Derusha August 6, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    If the potential harm from shipping only effects 1 country, it really cant be international waters.

  • Reply Eric x August 26, 2019 at 3:24 am

    0:12 wow the neighborhood is so bad they boarded up the windows and doors!

  • Reply Mr Wiggles August 27, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Wait what? Chris Hadfield? WHAT?

  • Reply StoneyGames September 8, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    just putting this out here its 2019 and the ship tom was on is now only 9,000 USD for a ride

  • Reply Stranger Happened September 30, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Don't you LOVE the Orwellian language?
    The USA, Canada, Poland, Hungary, Romania did "relocations" of people while the USSR did "deportations" (though people were allowed to have luggage, paid for lost cattle, given money in new places, etc)?

  • Reply WCGwkf October 10, 2019 at 4:11 am

    What if the next major war was the arctic wars. Who would canada even be fighting though? Probably just be a political war

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