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Northwest passage

Roald Amundsen
Did you know that… ?
  • ... besides being the first through the Northwest Passage, Amundsen was also the first to reach the South Pole?
  • ... during the trip on the ship Gjoa, Amundsen probably encountered the Czech polar explorer Jan Welzl?
  • ... the Gjoa is one of the smallest ships with which anyone has dared to attempt the journey joining the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans?
  • ... the Northwest Passage joins Europe and Asia north of the north American continent?
  • ... before Amundsen and the Gjoa travelled the Northwest Passage, it had eluded explorers for over 300 years?
  • ... members of Amundsen's expedition also gathered ethnographic data about the Eskimo population living along the shores of the Northwest Passage?
Ursus maritimus
  • The ship Gjoa was equipped with a mast and sail, and an auxiliary motor with 13 horsepower (9.7 kilowatts).
  • The ship was less than 25 meters long and only four meters wide.
  • It displaced 47 tons.
  • The Gjoa's crew comprised six men.
  • Conquering the Northwest Passage took Amundsen and the Gjoa three years.

In 1903, Amundsen on the Gjoa with six crew members set out from Oslo (then Kristiania) to the Canadian Arctic with the goal of sailing through the Northwest Passage. To become more familiar with the ship, he had sailed previously between Spitsbergen and Greenland. The Lancaster and Peele straits, unexplored since the disappearance of Franklin's ship, fell to Amundsen, who attained the southeast shore of King William Land. Here the ship froze in the ice and Amundsen and his crew were forced to remain for two winters. During this time, Amundsen and his crew conducted magnetic, meteorological and astronomical observations. During these observations they discovered that the magnetic pole drifts, and had moved significantly since the days of the British officer and explorer James Ross. Amundsen conducted lengthy trips. During one such trip, he made it to the eastern shore of Victoria Island, where he discovered 175 kilometres of uncharted shoreline. Besides that, they precisely mapped wide areas, including over 100 previously undiscovered islands and correcting existing maps. In August of 1905, the ship broke free of the imprisoning ice and continued its journey between the islands and the mainland shore. They had to interrupt the trip once again in winter of that same year, when they were forced to over winter again near the mouth of the Mackenzie River. August 30th, 1906 they finally reached the Bering Strait, becoming the first to navigate the Northwest Passage in one ship from Greenland along the coast of North America to Nome, Alaska.