“How hard can this be?” “This can’t be done!” “That wasn’t so hard!”
“Gotta find it!” “Who needs it?” “Gotta have it!”
The history of the Northwest Passage is a tale of failed expeditions and frustrated ambitions, of incremental advances and huge leaps forward, of international achievement and foreign intrigue, of ice-blocked channels and global warming, of a Russian flag and the Canadian continental shelf.
Its first traversal entirely by sea (as opposed to by ship and then by sledge over pack ice) was by Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian in a ridiculously tiny ship. Amundsen’s crew took three seasons to complete the trip, from 1903 to 1906, spending two winters icebound.
Its first west-to-east passage was by an RCMP ship, the St. Roch, from 1940 to 1942.
Its first east-to-west passage in a single year (Hurray! Home for Christmas!) was again by the St. Roch, in 1944.
Its first west-to-east passage in a single year was by Labrador, a Government of Canada icebreaker, in 1954, coincidentally 100 years after the first traversal (the one using sledges).
After all those years when commercial shippers wrote off the Northwest Passage, it’s now generating renewed interest as the Arctic ice melts and the passage is open for more of the year. There’s at least one site dedicated to the question of “Who Owns the Arctic?”
Canada thinks it’s our territorial waters; other countries think it’s international waters.
When a topic gets extended play on Parliament’s website, you know it matters.