The search for the Northwest Passage drove a good deal of the exploration and settlement of the Pacific Northwest. Deception Pass, Cape Disappointment - the place-names illustrate the story pretty well. As it turns out, there is a Northwest Passage, but it is ice-locked and impassible.
Except now, it's not. For the first time in recorded history, the Northwest Passage across northern Canada is open and passable. The European Space Agency has mosaic photos showing the Arctic ice pack and the ice shrinkage, as well as the passage itself through McClure Strait.
I can't help feeling like we are in the "oops" phase - to be followed shortly by the "oh, shit!" phase and then further by "say goodnight to the nice planet, folks!" Fun times.