Northwest Passage

CCGS Henry Larsen
The Northwest Passage is the shipping route that was going to revolutionise trade between Europe and the Far East.

In reality it didn't and even once it was discovered the route was so tortuous that it has never been considered a serious option.  It is however a major attraction for folks who love cold remote places and want to know a bit more about the history of polar exploration.

There isn't really a Northwest Passage.  There are a number of recognised routes through the network of islands across northern Canada.

Canadian North at Cambridge Bay
There are also a number of ways of getting to the Northwest Passage.  Most tourist cruises, again using the small expedition ships that I've used on several trips in both the far north and the far south, start in western Greenland before crossing Baffin Bay and working their way through the various channels to either Cambridge bay or Resolute.  At this point the usual pattern is for the passengers to leave the ship and fly south to one of the major international airports in Canada, and to be replaced by an incoming set of passengers who will head back eastwards to Greenland to complete the journey.  A small number of ships do make the complete transit through to one of the Alaska ports, but this is relatively unusual. 

One of the questions a trip through the Northwest Passage provokes is, "What about global warming, is there any ice?" Answers aren't simple. 

Over recent years the temperatures have risen, but during 2013 one of the consequences was more floating ice than had been the case in 2012.  This meant that the critical issue in keeping channels clear isn't really temperature, but the strength of the prevailing winds.  On my transit in summer 2013, we needed to call on the assistance of a Canadian Coastguard icebreaker to escort us through some of the channels where ice blown by the wind had blocked the channels we needed to pass through.

There are more details about my trip through the Northwest Passage elsewhere, look here...

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