The Northwest Passage


A brief explanation…

The Northwest Passage is a naval route through Arctic Islands in Northern Canada. It unites the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by a labyrinth of sounds, detroits, and bays, all congested with heavy ice.

In Modern times, the Northwest passage was initially conquered  by the Norwegian  explorer, Roald Amundsen in 1906.

Known Polar expeditions depicting the Northern scenery, date back to Greek Antiquity according to Pythias’ writings (4thCentury B.C.) Unfortunately, the Northwest Passage remained a myth for centuries.  Generations of Mariners attempted to find a navigable route which was discovered only in 1906 when Amundsen succeeded, over a three year period, to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

“The Northwest passage is opened. My dream of years has come true. It feels so very strange. I am completely overworked, but I may break down crying… ” (August 25, 1906, Amundsen logbook)

The Amundsen Route (1903 – 1906)

The routes vary, depending on the ice movements

Now a possibility, this naval expedition remains an incredible challenge, difficult because the routes are rare and forever choked with ice. The routes modify their flow through the vast arctic Archipelago along a labyrinth of gulfs, channels and detroits between Baffin Island and Banks land. No map has a true route. From one year to the next, depending on the ice jams and currents, new routes continuously redesign themselves. The completion of such an expedition, following months of determination, depends on the places, the time and circumstances.

A new scenery brought about by Global warming

No doubt, the Arctic is changing. It’s nothing new, having become an important topic of research and conversation. Climate change and the spectacular melting of the polar ice, changed everything. The receding ice during the summer is now a phenomenon explained by more than a yearly variable. Amongst the consequences of this melt is the accessibility of the Northern ports which were closed most of the year because of the vast ice quantities now allow the opening of the Northwest passage to international maritime traffic.

Important economic stakes

Since 2007, the Northwest Passage is generally open during the summer months, attracting just about anyone who can float a vessel. The stakes are high as this channel reduces access between the naval route between Europe and the Far East by more than 4000 kilometres as the present route goes through the Suez Canal. The Beaufort Sea would also be the reserve of a quarter of the world’s oil supply. It is an incredible resource which continuously raises discussions between the USA and Canada regarding both country’s maritime boundaries. What will be left of this mythic passage in 20 years after the ever present cargo ships and Super tankers?

The Route

Whether they be explorers, sportsmen, scientists, philanthropists or military, the Arctic Explorers use up most of their energy to try and fight the ice, the blizzards, the ocean and the icy deserts. An inuit quote perfectly sums it up :” only time and ice are the ultimate masters.”