Northern Explorations of Canada


From the time of Columbus, the American continent was seen by Europeans as a barrier between Europe and the Orient. A passage through it was the reason of many voyages of exploration - the search for the Northwest Passsage. While looking for it - the northern Arctic coastline was explored and mapped!

Early voyages to the Arctic were at that time as hazardous as voyages to the moon, and captured the popular imagination as space travel does today. Although characterized by courage, the explorers were often ill prepared for Arctic conditions. The hardships and suffering faced by the crews are difficult to imagine.

In 1880 Great Britain, which had explored most of the North American Arctic, transferred its territorial claims to Canada. In 1925 Canada claimed all the area stretching north to the pole.

The first transit of the Northwest Passage was not accomplished until the 20th century. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen amazingly made the voyage with six men in a small motorized boat, the Gjøa.

This map below shows tracts of expeditions, 1610-1902; and explorations of coasts, 1631-1902.


Click on the map to enlarge it.

Click to the legend to enlarge it.

See the map in an interactive version allowing you to zoom to specific section for further detail - click here

Source: Canada. Department of the Interior, 1904. Explorations in northern Canada and adjacent portions of Greenland and Alaska. James White, geographer. Scale indeterminate. [Ottawa] 1904.