How to Sail the Northwest Passage

How to Sail the Northwest Passage
For centuries, explorers sought a route north of Canada connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans--the coveted Northwest Passage. Today, the route known as the Northwest Passage does indeed exist. How might one make one's way from its beginning to its end? Certainly not without a whole host of icy challenges, since much of the sea-path is frozen over for much of the year. After all, the Northwest Passage lies entirely north of the Arctic Circle.


Difficulty: Challenging

Step 1
Sail up from the Eastern Seaboard in the Atlantic Ocean into Baffin Bay, between Greenland (Denmark) and Baffin Island, Canada. Your best bet is to head out in early summer because this will allow you to make the traditionally iciest portions of the journey in the dead of summer.
Step 2
Head west from Baffin Bay to Pond Inlet, located on the northeastern tip of Baffin Island. Pond Inlet is officially a hamlet and overlooks Eclipse Sound, not to mention the glaciers and mountains of Sirmilik National Park and Bylot Island, across the sound. In Pond Inlet you can restock on supplies and perhaps get a little on-land rest and relaxation before pushing on.
Step 3
Head northwest between Baffin Island and Bylot Island until you hit the open sea, then head due west to Resolute. Resolute will provide another opportunity tp stock up on supplies and get your feet on dry land for a while. It is located on Cornwallis Island. The place has three hotels, should you be in need of such amenities.
Step 4
Head due south from Resolute into Peel Sound, between Somerset Island and Prince of Wales Island. Peel Sound will turn into the Franklin Strait, veering southwest before opening up into more open sea. Continue southwest into the Victoria Strait. At this point, giant Victoria Island should be looming to your west, with the smaller King William Island to your east.
Step 5
Follow the Victoria Strait into Queen Maud Gulf, sticking close to the Victoria Island coastline until you reach the town of Cambridge Bay. Cambridge Bay will provide your last opportunity for restocking your supplies before the final push. It is also home to an airport, a bank, and several accommodations options.
Step 6
Head west into Dease Strait, which will veer southwest into Coronation Gulf. From here your path will turn northwest into Dolphin and Union Strait. So far you've remained along the obvious sea-path between Victoria Island and the mainland to the south. Now, however, the sea will open up into the giant Amundsen Gulf. Continue west-northwest into Beaufort Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Tips & Warnings

Check for weather reports often as you both plan and attempt this route.
Much of this passage is often covered in ice, so you may want to consider the services of an ice-breaker.
This passage should never be attempted by a novice.

Article Written By William Jackson

William Jackson has written, reported and edited professionally for more than 10 years. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, high-level government reports, books and online. He holds a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.

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