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Sunday, August 20, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Extraordinary sight greets North Pole visitors: Water

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - For the first time in 50 million years, visitors to the North Pole can see something extraordinary: water.

The thick ice that covers the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole has melted, leaving a mile-wide stretch of water at the top of the world, The New York Times reported yesterday.

Two recent visitors to the pole reported the unexpected sight.

"I don't know if anybody in history ever got to 90 degrees north to be greeted by water, not ice," said Malcolm McKenna, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History.

The water could be the result of global warming, although there is a debate among experts about the cause. Some believe it simply could be a natural occurrence rather than the result of a "greenhouse effect" caused by man-made pollution and increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Scientists have said that the last time the North Pole had this much water was 50 million years ago.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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