The passage to the northwest? More and more crowded!


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passage-to-northwestThe first person who succeeded was in 1906 Roald Admunsen. Nearly 110 years after the Northwest Passage (a route connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic archipelago of Canada), east to west or vice versa seems to have become a trend among sailors in 2014.

Right now there are fifteen boats waiting for the green light to venture into the ice of North America to try to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific from the North Pole. Most of the fleet trying are “normal” hulls: an Island Packet 43, an old Swan 53, an Oyster 47, a Garcia 45. Most of the boats that want to pass in the east/west direction are in Greenland at Nuuk, with an eye on satellite photos updating on the ice shelf situation.

Between the late 15th and 20th centuries, Europeans tried to establish a sea trade route passing north and west of the American continent. The British called the route the Northwest Passage, while the Spanish christened it the Strait of Anián. The desire to find this route motivated much of the European exploration of both coasts of North America. In 1539 Hernán Cortés commissioned Francisco de Ulloa to sail along today’s Baja California in search of the Strait of Anián. On August 8, 1585, English explorer John Davis entered the Strait (Gulf) of Cumberland near the coast of Baffin Island. In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed down the river that now bears his name (Hudson River) in search of passage. Hudson later explored the Canadian Arctic and discovered the bay that was named after him.

On July 30, 1789, the Malaspina expedition departed from Cadiz, whose task was to explore the farthest and as yet unmapped regions of the American continent and the Pacific Ocean, carry out a program of magnetic determinations, gather political and economic information, and locate the alleged Northwest Passage. That expedition consisting of two corvettes passed by Cape Horn coasting North Africa and South America. She went back up by heading to Panama to Alaska but was forced to abandon the search by returning to Acapulco.

In 1845 a well-equipped two-ship expedition led by Sir John Franklin (Franklin’s Lost Expedition) attempted to force passage across the Arctic ice from Baffin Bay to the Beaufort Sea. When the expedition failed to return, several rescue expeditions and search teams explored the Canadian Arctic between the two bodies of open water, eventually producing the nautical chart of a possible passage. Few traces have been found of the expedition, including records indicating that the ships were stranded by the ice grip in 1845 near King William Island, about halfway through the passage, and were unable to disengage the following summer. Franklin himself apparently died in 1847. It is unclear why all 134 members of the well-equipped and well-supplied expedition perished. The most recent hypothesis holds that death was caused by lead released from metal containers containing the expedition’s food supplies; a low-bid tender had been issued for the food supply. This hypothesis is supported by the first autopsies on the bodies, which the ice preserved in good condition, performed in the late 20th century. Thus, as they traveled overland routes to reach a fort or village, the men of the expedition fed themselves with lead-intoxicated food.

The Northwest Passage was finally conquered in 1906, when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who had set sail just in time to escape creditors trying to stop the expedition, completed a three-year voyage on a converted 47-ton herring fishing vessel. At the end of this trip, he entered the town of Circle, Alaska, and sent a telegram announcing his success. However, its route was not commercially practical: in addition to the time it took, some of its waters were extremely shallow. The first passage in a single season was not made until 1944, when the St. Roch, a schooner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, succeeded in the feat. (source





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