Exploration of The Northwest and East Passages 1903–34


Map Code: Ax00880

The Northwest and East Passages are Arctic shipping routes connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Explorers had been looking for faster trading routes from Europe to Asia through the Arctic since the mid-1500s. Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen first traversed the Northwest Passage, through the Canadian Arctic archipelago, in 1902–05. It was deemed unviable for commercial shipping as it took three years of travel through shallow waters, often covered in thick ice. The warming effects of climate change now allow increasing numbers of commercial and tourist ships to use this route. The Northeast Passage, along Russia’s Arctic coast, was first navigated by Swedish explorer Adolf Nordenskiöld, in 1878–79. For much of the year this route needs icebreakers when crossing the frozen Russian waters around Murmansk. The icebreaker A. Sibiryakov made the first crossing in 1922. The Chelyuskin, a steamship, reached as far as the Bering Sea in 1933–34.

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