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Northwest Passage facts

Northwest Passage is the sea route around the top of North America, which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. From the 1500s many explorers searched for the Northwest Passage. They wanted to find a short route to the East, as trade with eastern countries, especially India, was important. English trading companies, such as the Hudson's Bay Company, paid for many expeditions, but for centuries trie Passage remained undiscovered.

Among the explorers who tried to find the Northwest Passage were William Baffin, Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin (see Exploration). Franklin probably discovered the Passage on his last voyage in 1845 but he died after his ship had stuck in Arctic ice.

Robert McClure finally proved that there was a Northwest Passage in 1854. He sailed as far as he could and traveled the rest of the way on foot. In 1969 the S.S. Manhattan, a huge U.S. tanker, smashed its way west through the Arctic ice to Point Barrow, Alaska, proving that the Northwest Passage could become a practical route for ships.

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