Global warming has opened up the Arctic to shipping and now also raucous tourists, say Canadian authorities who last month levied $10 000 in fines against an Australian tycoon for a booze-fueled party cruise.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police boarded a 34-meter, seven-stateroom luxury yacht moored in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut on 7 September and charged its owner, Paul McDonald (51) with providing liquor to a minor and being in possession of liquor without a permit.
The federal police seized 200 bottles of liquor, as well as illegal fireworks, said an RCMP statement issued Tuesday.
The Nunatsiaq News said the resource tycoon from Noosa, Australia and his crew ignored warnings not to shoot off fireworks in the pristine Arctic environment, harassed muskox, and allowed an underage girl to "dive off the side of the yacht during a wild party" into icy waters.
Moreover, a cheque written to cover the fines bounced, it reported.
"This is the first time we've ever had this kind of thing happen," a police spokeswoman told AFP.
McDonald, who is leading the yacht on a circumnavigation of North America, is scheduled to appear in court on 15 November, in the Nunavut community of 1500 where alcohol is banned.
A website chronicling the yacht's journey says the Fortrus entered the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Straight one week after leaving Cambridge Bay and traversing the famed Northwest Passage. It is now headed for the Panama Canal.
"We all had a very memorable time in Cambridge Bay," said a post on trackingfortrus.com. It notes that the awestruck passengers and crew saw sea otters, whales and sea lions as well as "spectacular northern lights" during their Arctic voyage.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first to traverse the Northwest Passage 106 years ago.
The route is now seasonally ice-free as global warming linked to greenhouse gas emissions melts the polar ice cap, with access leading to a rush of prospecting, oil and gas exploration and new tourism.
According to the US Geological Survey, the region contains one fifth of the world's undiscovered oil reserves.
Internet giant Google also started mapping the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in August for its online map service.