The Northwest and Northeast Passages around the North Pole including the entire Arctic Ocean are wide open for the first time and a couple vessels are trying to take advantage of the extensive melting to complete these passages.
End of summer approaches for Arctic sea ice - From the Nat. Snow and Ice Data Center
Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. This August, ice extent was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007. On September 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record.
The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are largely free of ice, allowing the potential for a circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean. At least two expeditions are attempting this feat, the Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland and the Peter I yacht from Russia.