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The Northwest Passage is a famous sea route linking the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans. It was expected to provide an alternative and shorter
passage from Europe to Asia, but as the sea is frozen over for most
of the year, this route is not very practical.
Passage - Background
ROALD AMUNDSEN: First Navigation by Ship
1905: In mid August, Roald Amundsen sailed from Gjøahaven (today:
Gjoa Haven, Nunavut) in the vessel Gjøa. On August 26 they encountered
a ship bearing down on them from the west, and with that they were through
the passage. From Amundsen's diary:
The North West Passage was done. My boyhood dream - at that moment it
was accomplished. A strange feeling welled up in my throat; I was somewhat
over-strained and worn - it was weakness in me - but I felt tears in
my eyes. 'Vessel in sight' ... Vessel in sight.
2. ST. ROCH: First West-East Crossing
1940-1942: The St. Roch was given the task of demonstrating Canadian
sovereignty in the Arctic. It was ordered to sail from Vancouver to
Halifax by way of the Northwest Passage.
The St. Roch left Vancouver in June 1940 and on October 11, 1942, it
docked at Halifax - the first ship to travel from the Pacific to the
Atlantic via the Northwest Passage. The journey had taken almost 28
3. ST. ROCH: Northern Deep-Water Route (East-West)
1944: The St. Roch was the first ship to travel the Northwest Passage
through the northern, deep-water route and the first to sail the Passage
in both directions.
4. FRANKLIN EXPEDITION: Attempt
1845-48: Although Sir John Franklin was on the right track, his ships,
the "Terror" and the "Erebus", became frozen in
the ice near King William Island. The ships disappeared and all 129
men were lost. MORE...
5. SIR WILLIAM EDWARD PARRY: Attempt
1819-20: Parry led a number of expeditions in search of the Northwest
Passage, and he was almost successful. One of his expeditions qualified
for the £5,000 prize offered by the Board of Longitude to the
first vessel to cross the 110th meridian in high northern latitudes.
6. ROBERT McCLURE: Proved Route Existed
1850-54: While his ship was trapped in the ice, McClure set off by sledge
and discovered a passage between Banks Island and Victoria Island. Coming
west to east, this linked up with Parry's previous postion coming east
to west. McClure and his crew were awarded the £10,000 prize for
finding the Passage.
Typical Northwest Passage Route (Black)
2. Roald Amunsden: First navigation by ship (White)
3. St Roch: First West-East crossing (Green)
4. St Roch: Northern deep water route
5. Franklin Expedition: Attempt (Dark Red)
6. Sir William Edward Parry: Attempt (Purple)
7. Robert McClure: Proved route existed (Orange)