Northwest Passage Attractions
The Northwest Passage is the waterway on about 73° of latitude north along the north coast of the American continent, passing from the Atlantic through the Canadian Arctic archipelago and the Beaufort Sea and the Bering Straits to the Pacific Ocean.The search for the Northwest Passage was begun in the 16th c. by Dutch and English navigators hoping to find a favorable sea route for trade with the Far East and thus circumvent the Portuguese monopoly on trade round the Horn of Africa. Martin Frobisher, in 1576, made the first attempt, assuming that this could not be the legendary sea of ice but just a frozen lake since saltwater never froze. In 1585-87 John Davis penetrated through the strait later to bear his name as far as Baffin Bay. Henry Hudson was looking for the Northwest Passage when he discovered Hudson Bay in 1609/1610. In 1616 William Baffin got as far as Lancaster Sound, but since he concluded that the Northwest Passage simply did not exist there was no more exploration for another 200 years.It was 1818 before John Ross resumed the search at the head of an English expedition, although the motive this time was scientific rather than commercial. In 1829 he discovered the magnetic north pole on the Boothia-Felix Peninsula. The doomed expedition of John Franklin followed in 1845. After last being seen in July of that year in the Lancaster Sound, the members of the expedition were finally found dead, after numerous searches, on King Williams Island, having succeeded in exploring much of the Arctic coast of North America. McClure was the first, in 1850 to 1853, to be able to trace the passage on foot, coming over the iced up straits from the west, but the first person to manage finally to navigate the Northwest Passage from east to west was actually Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian polar explorer in 1900-03.Since the way the ice forms in the Arctic Ocean can vary enormously from year to year and decade to decade its reconnaissance has always been of prime importance. This has improved over the years firstly with the use of planes and then, since 1960, of satellites. The first submarine, the U.S. nuclear sub "Sea Dragon", went through the Barrow Strait in 1960, and in 1969 the special tanker "Manhattan", assisted by the Canadian icebreaker "St Laurent", succeeded in sailing through the Northwest Passage to Alaska, with the aid of satellite and aerial reconnaissance, and in the knowledge that the ice in the Arctic is at its thinnest between August and October and the Barrow Strait is largely ice-free.The Northwest Passage gained in importance of late with the discovery of oil in the Arctic off Alaska and Canada.