A few weeks ago during the height of the Arctic summer, when the sun shines 24 hours a day, a Canadian police vessel navigated the fabled `Northwest Passage'. The media greeted this news as if it were somehow unique (global warming etc.).A related post is here.
However, the Northwest Passage has a long history and these are but a few of the passages made during the 20th century. (Information obtained from here) -
1903-06 - Roald Amundsen, in the Gjoa, makes the first full transit of the Northwest Passage from east to west.
1944 - The St. Roch, an RCMP schooner, makes the first west-to-east passage. It returns west and becomes the first to make the return journey in one season .
1969 - The Manhattan, the largest ship to navigate the Northwest Passage, leads a special experiment to see if the transport of bulk oil from Alaska would be feasible through the Passage.
1975 - R. Dickinson and K. Maro, in the Pandora II and the Theta, make a west-to-east transit.
1976-78 - R. Bouvier, in the J. E. Bernier II, a ketch, makes an east-to-west transit.
1977 - W. De Roos, in the Williwaw, a Dutch 42-foot (13-m) ketch, makes the first single handed passage from east to west.
1980 - Pandora II, a hydrographic research vessel, makes a transit from west to east.
1981-83 - Japanese sloop Mermaid, makes an east-to-west transit.
1983-88 - French vessel, The Vagabond II, makes a west-to-east transit.
U.S. motor yacht Belvedere, makes a west-to-east transit.
1984 - Lindblad Explorer, the first commercial passenger vessel to make a transit from east-to-west.
1985 - Commercial passenger ship `World Discoverer', makes a west-to-east transit.
1988 - MV Society Explorer, a Bahamas-registered passenger ship, makes a west-to-east transit.
These are but a few of the vessels to make a successful transit of the NorthWest Passage. There were many more.
What makes transits of the NorthWest Passage infrequent is not the lack of open water to actually do it, but the unreliability of being able to navigate the same channels from year to year.
Vessels today have satellite navigation, satellite images of the ice and ready communication in case of trouble. Navigating the passage today can no longer be considered a `feat' as it was in 1903.
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