Northern Canada
and the Arctic

When viewing any Arctic File: (Click here to view) Towns, Places, Communities, Rivers, Lakes, Islands, Peninsulas, Waterways, Parks, Capes, Hudson’s Bay Company Forts, Greenland, and Other.

Admiral Frances McClintock

1857- Captain Francis McClintock’s Arctic Expedition was a British effort to solve the mystery of the lost Franklin Arctic Expedition. Led by McClintock aboard the steam yacht the “Fox”, the expedition spent two years in the region and ultimately returned with the only written message from the doomed expedition. He wrote a book about his search called “The Voyage of the Fox”.At Disko Bay, Greenland, McClintock hired 30 sled dogs and an Inuit driver. McClintock learned and developed the Eskimo art of sledging. While wintering in Bellot Strait, McClintock and crew made epic dog sled trips on Boothia Peninsula. Here he met some Inuit who told him that a ship had been crushed by ice off King William Island, the crew had landed safely and that some white people had starved to death on the island. In April he went south again and on the east coast of King William Island met other Inuit who sold him artifacts from Franklin's expedition.
Crew member, William Hobson, found the only written record left by Franklin. They also found a skeleton with European clothes and a ships boat on runners containing two corpses. They got as far south as Montreal island, Nunavut. McClintock returned to England in September 1859 and was knighted.

Trapped in the Ice

1819 - Admiral William Parry left England in command of the brig “Alexander” on a quest to find the Northwest Passage. The crew reached Melville Island where they were stopped by ice. Parry’s expedition returned to England in November, 1820.
1821- They again left England for the Arctic. Commanding the “Fury” and accompanied by the “Hecla”. When the ice cleared they returned home.
1824-25 - They left London in the “Hecla”. It was a bad year for ice and he did not reach Lancaster Sound until September. He entered Prince Regent Inlet but after 60 miles of ice he was forced to winter Port Bowen.
1825 -they freed themselves from ice but 60 miles further south they were caught by wind and ice and the Fury was wrecked on the western shore (now called Fury Beach).

Admiral William Parry

Dr. John Rae

Dr. John Rae was a Scottish Surgeon and Hudson Bay Company employee who found the final portion of the Northwest Passage (Rae strait was named after him). He was known for physical stamina, skill at hunting, boat handling, living off the land, and Inuit survival methods. He explored large parts of northern Canada.
1844 - The Hudson Bay Company wanted an arctic overland expedition starting from Hudson Bay. Rae was chosen because of his well-known skill in overland travel.
1854 - John Rae travelled west from Repulse Bay, Nu and learned from the Inuit that a ship had been abandoned somewhere to the west. He then acquired relics and stories about the Franklin party from local Inuit.
1848–51 – Rae traveled from Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic and Coppermine, NU, where he explored Victoria Island.


1845 Captain John Franklin and his crew of 129 men departed England, in search of the last un-navigated section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. Franklin, a Royal Navy officer set sail, aboard two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror.
1845-46 the Captain and crew wintered on Beechey Island. The next year the two ships became ice bound in Victoria Strait, near King William Island. The ships and crews vanished. Dozens of search expeditions, both overland and by sea, were sent to the Arctic to find them.
In 2014, the sunken wreck of the “HMS Erebus” was found. Two years later the “HMS Terror” was found. After 150 years both boats were found in Victoria Strait near the west coast of King William Island.
In 1981, a team of scientists began a series of scientific studies of the graves, bodies, and other physical evidence left by Franklin's men on Beechey and King William Islands. They concluded that the men buried on Beechey Island most likely died of Pneumonia and or Tuberculosis. Lead poisoning from poorly soldered canned food may have also contributed to their poor health.

Captain John Franklin

Robert McClure

January 10, 1850 – Captain Robert McClure set out from London, England commanding the (three masted) “H.M.S Investigator”. There first goal was to reach the Bearing Strait from the west, by way of the Pacific Ocean. From Barrow Alaska they were to locate the Northwest Passage and sail thru the Arctic into the Atlantic Ocean and back to England. The Investigator was abandoned to the pack ice in the spring of 1853, McClure and his crew was rescued by a party from the HMS Resolute, under the command of Edward Belcher. He completed his journey across the Northwest Passage by dog sled. McClure and his crew were the first both to circumnavigate the Americas, and to transit the Northwest Passage. McClure and his men were forced to spend a fourth winter in the Arctic when Resolute became trapped in the ice. In April 1854 McClure and the crew were sent by sledge to Beechey Island where they boarded the transport North Star. They finally arrived in England on September 28th 1854. The sunken "Investigator" (abandoned in the Arctic more than 150 years earlier) was found lying under the ice in 2010.


Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer of both the North and South Poles and the first to reach both. Amundsen aboard the fishing/sailing vessel “Gjoa” led the first expedition to successfully find and sail thru Canada's Northwest Passage. The ship had a shallow draft and a small gasoline engine. Amundsen and his crew learned from the local Inuit people about Arctic survival skills, including sled dogs and the wearing of animal skins. He dedicated his life to exploration of the wilderness.
1903 – Amundsen and crew travelled to Baffin Bay, Lancaster Sound, Peel Sound, James Ross Strait, Simpson and Rae Strait before wintering on King William Island, at Gjoa Haven.
1904 - They travelled to the North Magnetic Pole before returning to King William Island.
1905 – After wintering for two years at Gjoa Haven, they sailed to Cambridge Bay, Queen Maud Gulf and continued west, thru Coronation Gulf, until they became trapped in ice near Herschel Island, Yukon. They completed the voyage the following year, when they reached Nome, Alaska.

Roald Amundsen

Agnes Deans Cameron

In May of 1908 Agnes Cameron set out with her niece Jessie Brown on a 10,000 mile round trip. She packed a camera and a typewriter and traveled from Edmonton, Alberta to the Arctic Ocean. She made photographic slides and published a book about her journey, “The New North”. She first traveled to Athabasca Landing on a stagecoach. She then boarded a Hudson’s Bay Company scow and headed downstream on the Athabasca River to Fort Chippewa. At Fort Chippewa they boarded a steamer and crossed Athabasca Lake to visit Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan. They rejoined the Athabasca River and proceeded to the Slave River and Great Slave Lake. They crossed Great Slave Lake, and the headwaters of the Mackenzie River. They traveled 2,217k on the Mackenzie River to the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
At the Beaufort Sea they boarded a Steamboat and began their return trip upstream on the Mackenzie River. At Rivière des Rochers on the Slave River they joined the Peace River. At the town of Peace River then took a stagecoach’s and boats back to where they started in Edmonton, Alberta.


Built at the Burrard Dry Dock Shipyards in Vancouver, BC and launched on May 7, 1928, the “St. Roch” was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Schooner. It was 104 ft. (31.78 m) long with a beam of 24 ft. (7.54 m) and a draft of 12 ft. (3.81 m), rigged as a schooner with sails and150 hp diesel engine.

Often captained by Henry Larson, the St. Roch was the RCMP presence on its three coasts (Atlantic Pacific and Arctic Oceans). It served as a supply ship to the RCMP detachments in the Canadian Arctic.

St. Roch
St Roch


On June 1st, 2017 Captain Stephan Guy and the MV Polar Prince, a 67 metre, former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, (renamed Canada3) set out on an epic 150 day boating trip. Starting from Toronto, Ontario, Canada3 motored up the Saint Laurence Seaway thru Quebec and visited all the Maritime Provinces. Into the Atlantic Ocean and headed north to the Territory of Nunavut. Traveling west thru the Arctic Ocean and the Northwest Passage they visited communities in Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon. They arrived at the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean and made their first stop in British Columbia at Prince Rupert. They arrived in Victoria, British Columbia on October 28th, 2017.


 The Northwest Passage is a sea corridor through Canada's Arctic. European explorers have searched for the route for 300 years. In the past, the Northwest Passage was impassible because of thick ice. They hoped to find a trade route between Europe and Asia. The Northwest Passage was first navigated by Roald Amundsen on his ship, the “Gjoa”, discovering the most Southern route. Climate change is making it more passable. The benefits of an ice free Northwest Passage are significant because of much shorter distances from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

North West Passage
North West Passage

Ten Provinces and Three Territories

To the best of my knowledge this (theoretical) boat trip has never been done before. This boating trip starts in British Columbia on the Peace River and runs into the Assiniboine River in Alberta. Turn south (up river for 40k) until you get to Fort Chipewyan. Cross Lake Assiniboine and to the community of Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan (you’re only stop in Saskatchewan). Rejoin the Assiniboine River northward and eventually into Great Slave Lake. Great Slave Lake is the headwaters of the Mackenzie River. The Mackenzie River flows northward to the Beauford Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Before turning east make a stop (you’re only stop in the Yukon) on Hershel Island, Yukon.
Sail east to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT and into the Coronation Gulf, stopping at Coppermine and Cambridge Bay, NU. Turn north into Victoria strait and McClintock Channel. Sail east thru Bellot Strait and into the Gulf of Boothia. Turn south in the Gulf of Boothia and east into Fury and Hecla Strait. Turn south in Foxe Basin and west into Repulse Bay, Nu. Then head south down the coast to Churchill, (you’re only stop in Manitoba).
Head east across Hudson’s Bay and turn south into the Atlantic Ocean and Newfoundland and Labrador then west to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. West up the Saint Laurence Seaway and into Quebec and Ontario.


On April 1, 1999, Canada created a third territory called Nunavut. It was carved out of the central
and eastern area of the Northwest Territories (NWT). The indigenous people of Nunavut are an ancient “Inuit" culture. (Inuit means “The People”). Inuit make up almost 85 percent of Nunavut's population (Nunavut means “Our Land”) in Inuktitut (the Inuit language).

The first Arctic explorers were the Inuit who have been travelling and exploring the Arctic region for thousands of years. Because they practice an oral tradition, most of their journeys are undocumented. Traditionally, Inuit used different methods of travel depending on the season. In the winter they traveled across the frozen Arctic either by foot or dog sled. With sleds pulled by dogs to they were able to travel great distances on the ice. During the summer, they took advantage of the open water and traveled by boat. The Inuit made two types of boats, Kayak’s and the Umiak’s. Kayaks were small, one-person, lightweight and manoeuvrable boats mainly used for hunting. Sealskin skirts were wrapped around the occupant's waist to prevent water from entering the boat. Umiaks were large, open boats mainly used for travel. They could carry between 10 and 15 people. Umiaks were generally used to move from camp to camp, and to hunt larger sea mammals, like whales. Their footwear “Mukluks” was traditionally made of reindeer, caribou or sealskin.The Inuit lived nomadic lifestyles. Since hunting and fishing was their main source of food, they followed the seasonal migration of animals. During the winter the Inuit mostly lived in coastal areas where they could hunt seals. During the spring and summer months, the Inuit started moving inland, spending time fishing and hunting caribou. In the summer Inuit lived in animal skin tents and traveled by foot or boat. Their houses had to be quick and easy to build. The most common winter shelter was a snow house, more commonly known as an “igloo”. An Igloo was a temporary, dome-shaped shelter made out of snow blocks. The Inuit needed a shelter that would keep them warm and protect them from the harsh, winter weather. The blocks were cut from the snow and piled in a spiral shape, leaning in slightly. This gave the igloo its dome shape. Soft snow was used to fill any holes and add extra insulation. Depending on the size of the igloo, it usually took the Inuit 20-30 minutes to build. Sleeping platforms were made of ice blocks, covered with fur. Seals provided the people with fat for their soapstone lamps, which both heated and provided light for their igloos. The Canadian Arctic is one of the most extreme climates in the world. The Inuit were masters at adapting and were able to sustain their people over thousands of years. The Inuit lived a peaceful and self-reliant existence.

Nunavut - Inuit Explorers

European Arctic Explorers

Europeans that explored the Arctic were often searching for the Northwest Passage, a shorter route to the Orient. Very few Europeans thought about how the Inuit had managed to survive and flourish in such a harsh landscape and climate.

Europeans often thought that their modern methods regarding clothing, tents, canned food, kerosene heating, and cooking were superior. This mistake cost many early explorers their lives. The Inuit often showed them survival skills, saving them from starvation, scurvy and exposure. Back in Europe, the Inuit often got little or no credit for their involvement.

The Norwegian, Roald Amundsen was one of the few explorers who learned how the Inuit managed their environment and survival skills. He spent two years trapped in the ice in and around modern day Gjoahaven, Nunavut. He and his crew survived by practicing Inuit ways.

Arctic Explorer