The mythical North-West Passage
held the imagination of Britain for most
of the 19th century. At that time,
before the great canals of Panama and
Suez were built, trade with the
lucrative markets in Asia was perilous
and slow, with trade routes either
flowing past the Cape of Good Hope in
Africa, across to India, and thereby to
the Far East; or taking the dangerous
passage South around Cape Horn in South
America, and then across the Pacific.
What Britain sought was a shortcut: The
fabled North-West Passage, a sea-route
North past Canada, through to Alaska and
the lucrative markets of the Orient.
Expedition after expedition was sent. People were convinced a passage was there, with wealth and fame awaiting those who found it. Some even speculated ...