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Is this the world’s most mysterious sea passage? Discover the secrets of the Northwest Passage

For 500 years, adventurers and scientists searched for a polar sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Roald Amundsen was the first to find it. Join Hurtigruten as it sets sail through the wild and wonderful Northwest Passage.

“We passed Liston and Sutton islands and ran out the Dolphin and Union Strait. My relief over managing the last difficult hole in the Northwest Passage was indescribable,” writes adventurer and polar explorer Roald Amundsen in his notes from 21 August 1905.

Dressed in sealskin, the hardy Norwegian explorer gazed upon the open sea, three years surrounded by ice slowly – finally – disappearing behind him. Three magical, cold, explorative, adventurous and – at times – dangerous years navigating the islands north of Canada aboard his expedition vessel, Gjøa.

Thanks to Amundsen and his crew, we now have a lot more knowledge of this part of the world. And while some things have come a long way – in terms of both navigation and cruise comfort – many remain the same: the wild seas and ice-covered landscapes; the far-flung Inuit communities; the thousands of birds and rich marine life. It’s time to follow in the footsteps of the world’s early explorers and discover the fabled Northwest Passage in style.

Lancaster Sound
Lancaster Sound, Canada © Andrea Klaussner

Curiosity and mystery

The Northwest Passage is the sea route linking the Atlantic to Pacific oceans. It runs via the Arctic Archipelago in northern Canada, and its discovery changed the shipping and transportation world for the fact it was dramatically shorter than previous journeys around Cape Horn or along the Panama Canal. But things aren’t always as they seem here. Ships and people have disappeared (although not since the mid-1800s – relax!), and for a long time the passage remained a theory – the stuff of legends – among scientists and navigators.

“Circumnavigating the mainland of North America has, without contest, been the task in polar exploration that humanity has been most preoccupied with,” said Amundsen after his Gjøa expedition. Preoccupied for centuries, it turns out.

John Cabot was the first to set sail. The year was 1497, and his expedition (commissioned by King Henry VII) marked the start of what would be a series of challenging journeys across the region. The pursuit of the legendary passage stretches through the Renaissance, The Protestant Reformation, colonisations, the English Civil War, the French Revolution and onward into the modern era. Amundsen was right: the Arctic area was like a magnet. It still is.

Lancaster Sound, Canada
Lancaster Sound, Canada © Andrea Klaussner

MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fram

Hurtigruten’s modern-day voyages along the Northwest Passage take intrepid travellers through historic waters, visiting many of the same polar points that those early adventurers saw. You’ll spot whales, belugas, caribou, seals and polar bears. And experience that dramatic contrast between the magnificent Arctic landscapes and the small, colourful Inuit communities. Let MS Roald Amundsen or MS Fram drop anchor, then jump aboard smaller boats to get a closer view of the shoreline. Just like the explorers did.

Hurtigruten’s New Year Global Expedition Sale

Welcome in a New Year of discoveries with Hurtigruten’s New Year Global Expedition Sale. Enjoy savings of up to $1,500 on select 2022 Northwest Passage cruises and sail in the wake of famous explorers.

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