Quest for a Northwest Passage
The explorers who followed Christopher Columbus soon found that North America was not a
part of Asia, as they had believed at first. At
this time, British, French, and Dutch adventurers
were more interested in finding an easy route to
Asia than they were in exploring and settling
North America, so they began to look for a
"Northwest Passage," or waterway, that
would take them around or through the continent.
Chronology of Major
1524 Giovanni Verrazano, sailing under the French flag, made it
as far north as Maine.
1535 Jacques Cartier,
exploring for France, found the St. Lawrence
1576 Sir Martin Frobisher began a series of English expeditions,
and discovered the bay which now bears his name.
Humphrey Gilbert claimed the territory of
Newfoundland for the English Crown.
explorer John Davis reached Cumberland Sound,
1609 Henry Hudson,
working for the Dutch East India Company, sailed
into New York Bay and up the Hudson River.
Henry Hudson explored the Hudson Strait and
Baffin and Robert Bylot sailed up Davis Strait
and around Baffin Bay.
Vancouver Expedition surveyed in detail all the
passages from the Northwest Coast and confirmed
that there was no such passage south of the
John Ross, a Scottish explorer, began a series of
Ships commanded by Sir
John Franklin, a
British explorer, reached a point not far from
waters that lead directly to the Asiatic shore.
Franklin died during the expedition.
Robert McClure forced a passage northward to the
northern shore of Banks Island. He anchored his
ship in a bay which he named God's Mercy, and
tried to continue his trip by foot. His attempt
did not succeed, however.
Roald Amundsen's ship, the Gjoa,
completed the first successful east-to-west trip
through the Northwest Passage.
1942 The Royal
Canadian Mounted Police schooner, St. Roch,
completed the first west-to-east voyage through
the Northwest Passage.
Strait was conquered by U.S. Navy and Coast Guard
1960 The U.S.
atomic submarine Seadragon made the
first underwater crossing of the Northwest
1969 The U.S.
icebreaker-tanker Manhattan became the
first commercial ship to complete the passage.
Although a Northwest Passage has indeed been
mapped, it is ice-packed most of the year and has
never proven to be a viable route for shipping.
The World Book Encyclopedia
Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International,
Sir Martin Frobisher
Sir John Franklin
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