History of the Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage has been one of the most famous miths of the Modern Era, relentlessly pursued by the bigger naval powers starting from the very first years after the discovery of America curiously by the Italians Giovanni e Sebastiano Caboto, known as John and Sebastian Cabot.
Political and commercial goals pushed England, Holland (then Republic of the Seven United Provinces) and Denmark to invest incredible sums and huge human resources to the exploration of the fartherst north, both east toward Russia and west toward the American continent, trying to find a shipping lane to the Far East and avoiding the blockade set up by Spaniards and Portuguese in the central and southern Atlantic.
In the nineteenth century again both UK and Norway tried the west course with explorations that became a purely scientific challenge, reason of national pride, as it was clear that sea trade was impossible there.
During that century the search became hectic and was haunted by the loss of hundreds of victims, dead also because of the obstination of the organizers not preapred to open their minds to learn from the experience of the Inuit people, considered savages and subhumans.
The one that, on the contrary, did exactly the opposite was the Norwegian Amundsen, who at the beginning of the twentieth century wit scarse resources first solved the mistery of the Passage, while conducting scientific observations, while on the east side the Northeast Passage was first won twentyfive years earlier by the Swede Nordenskjöld.
Amundsen feat stayed unmatched for many years, but since the Second World War on the passages became many, albeit unfrequent, until recently when economic interests helped by the end of the Cold War and by the global warming started to consider this route as a profitable trading and tourist route.
A more complete story can be found here on wikipedia: