LONDON: It's now a fact. The North Pole has become an "island" for the first time in history, courtesy global warming. NASA's satellite images have revealed that the melting ice has facilitated the opening up of both the north-west and north-east passages, making it possible for marine vessels to circumnavigate the Arctic ice cap. In fact, the images suggest the north-west passage opened last weekend while the final blockage on the east side of the ice cap, an area of sea ice stretching to as far as Siberia, dissolved a few days later. "The passages are open. It's an historic event. We are going to see this more and more as the years go by," according to Professor Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in the US. However, he has warned that the images indicated that the Arctic may have entered a "death spiral" caused by global warming, British newspaper 'The Daily Telegraph' reported. But shipping companies are smiling all the way to the bank as they plan to exploit the first simultaneous opening of the routes since the beginning of the last Ice Age 125,000 years ago. According to the Beluga Group in Germany, it will send the first ship through the north-east passage, around Russia, next year, cutting 4,000 miles off the voyage from Germany to all the way to Japan. It may be mentioned that last year, the extent of sea ice in the Arctic had reached a record low, that also prompted scientists to caution that the ice cap could vanish altogether during summer in years' time.