The Saga of the Northwest Passage

The quest to discover and navigate the Northwest Passage long enticed explorers and politicians throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The Northwest Passage is a treacherous sea-route through the Arctic Ocean. It was seen as a potential trade route and not successfully navigated until the early 20th century.

The Northwest Passage

This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights the dangers of the sea journey and the ill-fated voyage by the HMS Investigator, an expedition led by Robert McClure that was abandoned in 1853 after it was irretrievably trapped in the ice. The ship was rediscovered in 2010 and is subject to investigation and excavation by nautical archaeologists.

Due to the environment and frigid waters, the dangers posed to archaeologists are unique. You can read more about their endeavors and what they have discovered int he 2011 field season in this article: “The Saga of the Northwest Passage.”

HMS Investigator Today

3 thoughts on “The Saga of the Northwest Passage

  1. Jim Wheeler

    Students of today ought to be inspired by this kind of archeological work because it confirms the reality that people of more than a century and a half ago were no less adventurous, no less adaptive, no less inventive than any astronaut of the current era, and perhaps even more so. It is all a matter of building on scientific knowledge. Newton was right about standing on the shoulders of giants.

    To me the story of HMS Investigator is evocative of a famous fictional novel written only a couple of decades after she was lost, The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. As a teen-ager I was immensely inspired by the adventurous spirit of five men swept away by nature and cast away on that lonely place only to surmount their difficulties by sheer will and intellect. Of them all the engineer was my particular hero and I am proud to have followed in the same educational tradition. The detritus of eras past illuminate the realities of our similarities as well as our differences.

    1. Jennifer Carey-Lockett Post author

      Or does it highlight the foolishness of men pas? 😉

      The archaeological methods are what I find most fascinating – as I don’t know that I could work in those conditions. They’re immensely treacherous and require a great deal of ingenuity.


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