Northwest Passage

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The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways amidst the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.[1][2] The various islands of the archipelago are separated from one another and the Canadian mainland by a series of Arctic waterways collectively known as the Northwest Passages or Northwestern Passages.[3]

Sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route, it was first navigated by Roald Amundsen in 1903–1906. Until 2009, the Arctic pack ice prevented regular marine shipping throughout most of the year, but climate change has reduced the pack ice, and this Arctic shrinkage made the waterways more navigable.[4][5][6][7] However, the contested sovereignty claims over the waters may complicate future shipping through the region: The Canadian government considers the Northwestern Passages part of Canadian Internal Waters,[8] but various countries maintain they are an international strait or transit passage, allowing free and unencumbered passage.[9][10]

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. Northwest passage. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
  2. The Northwest Passage Thawed.
  3. (1953) IHO Codes for Oceans & Seas, and Other Code Systems: IHO 23-3rd: Limits of Oceans and Seas, Special Publication 23, 3rd, International Hydrographic Organization. 
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  7. Keating, Joshua E.. The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009: A few ways the world changed while you weren’t looking. Foreign Policy.
  8. TP 14202 E Interpretation. Transport Canada.
  9. The Northwest Passage and Climate Change from the Library of Parliament—Canadian Arctic Sovereignty.
  10. Naval Operations in an ice-free Arctic.