The Northwest Passage is the Arctic route that links the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. It has been sought-after by explorers for centuries, who have been intent on braving the ice and storms to find a trade route to Asia.
Next summer, our team of experienced ocean rowers (NWP2021), will attempt an expedition like no other, to be the first to navigate the Northwest Passage by rowing boat.
Navigating the Northwest Passage by human power alone is considered the ‘Last Great First’ on earth. But it hasn’t always been possible. Climate change has resulted in the sea ice retreating for longer periods each year, keeping the route open from July to September, which is when the rowers plan to embark on this incredible challenge.
Whilst rowing the 2300m Arctic route, the team will draw attention to the drastically changing environment by taking part in meaningful data collection for Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, one of the world’s leading ocean conservation organisations. They are helping help keep the oceans clean by protecting vulnerable marine animals, providing free educational resources, researching ocean pollution for policy change, and supporting the development of innovative technologies.
The search for the Northwest Passage began in the 15th century, as Europeans sought a route to Asia for trade. Over the next centuries, some of the western world’s best explorers attempted the route: Sir Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher, Captain Cook, Sir John Franklin, and John Ross. But every one of them was foiled by the brutal conditions and the enveloping ice. The area was eventually mapped by the likes of the Hudson Bay Company and the North West Company, and the existence of a route began to fall into doubt after so many failed attempts to locate it.
In the 1860s, Orkney based explorer John Rae finally found a sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was not until Roald Amundsen set out in 1903 that the route was finally navigated from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It took three years to complete the route as the sea froze around him, time and again.