North West Passage Territories – Early History

Controversy over the North West Passage


I thought it might be interesting to have a brief look at the history of the area; to maybe better understand the controversy over who owns the waters of the North West Passage.

  • Originally there were the First Nations, Inuits from Mackenzie, Copper, Caribou and Central nation and First Nations  Peoples lived in this area well before European explorers came.
  • In the 1570’s, Martin Frobisher, an English sea captain and privateer ( licensed Pirate) made three attempts to find the NorthWest passage: managing to find and name Frobisher Bay and land on Baffin Island. It here he found his ‘gold ore’ and later returned to collect more. This ore turned out to be Fool’s gold or iron pyrite and after the third expedition funding was not available, so he did not again return to the area.
  • Frobisher’s discovery though increased interest in the area and led to the exploration of the interior by explorers many of whom where british and belonged to The Company of Merchants of London, Discoverers of the North-West Passage , formed in 1612.
  • In 1612 the King of England, King Charles 11 gave a charter to what is now known as the Hudson Bay Company

I have found looking at the history of the area fascinating and so much it is difficult to narrow it down. I wandered off track for a while following some really interesting information on the Inuits and First Nations – far too much to write in one post. So maybe as this blog continues I can share some of what I am finding and trying to understand. I am planning to look from the 1700’s next post ( that’s if I do not get sidetracked again). Also I would be really interested in what are your thoughts on ownership of the NW Passage?

In my wanderings I found this song –  it was a favourite of my granddad. Enjoy Stan Rogers, North West Passage.


North West Passage – Early History

The HMS Erebus from the ill fated Franklin Expedition of 1845
HMS Erebus trapped in Ice

There is nothing more exciting than pushing the frontiers going where no man has gone before. Ok I know that’s a Star Trek reference but its fits the story of the search for the North west passage. This is the passage that would lead sailors to a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the arctic archipelago that is now my home of Canada,

As early as the late 15th century explorers tried to discover a shorter route to the Pacific and the wealth of the East, the exotic Orient.  What an exciting time that must have been and dangerous! Many of the famous mariners of history have attempted to discover this mysterious and often consider fanciful passage. A book I bought Arctic Explorers by Frances Hern gives some great descriptions of the adventures of these men. Driven by economy to find a safer passage for their ships these men where adventurers and pirates! It is no wonder there stories held me mesmerised but what I had not realized until starting this blog how true some of them where.  Men mutinied and ships disappeared, mysteries abounded.  Last year one of the mysteries was resolved. In 1845 the Franklin expedition set sail, two ships the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus  and after being sited by whalers in  Lancaster Sound they were lost for 170 years only to be found last year by  Canadian scientific team. Unfortunately the find has been a little overshadowed by the politicizing of whom the North west passage belongs to.