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Little Ice Age lessons: A tumultuous history of resilience and surprises

Little Ice Age lessons: A tumultuous history of resilience and surprises

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Midway through the 17th century, Dutch whalers bound for the Arctic noticed that the climate was changing. For decades, they had waited for the retreat of sea ice in late spring, then pursued bowhead whales in bays off the Arctic Ocean islands of Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen. They had set up whaling stations and even towns in those bays, with ovens to boil blubber into oil. Europe’s growing population demanded oil for lighting and cooking, and for industrial purposes that included the manufacture of soap. Now, thick sea ice kept whalers from reaching their ovens even in mid-summer. Climate change, it seemed, had doomed their trade. Yet in the frigid decades of the late-17th century, the Dutch whaling industry boomed. Whalers discovered how to boil blubber aboard their ships or on sea ice, then learned how to transport it from the Arctic to furnaces in Amsterdam. There, labourers boiled the oil until it reached a purity never achieved in the Arctic, giving Dutch whalers a competitive…
Source: Little Ice Age lessons: A tumultuous history of resilience and surprises

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