Scotlands History\|Scots and Canada

The Search for the Northwest Passage

  • A photograph of the ships of Inglefield’s expedition to seacrh for John Franklin

In 1845, the Hudson’s Bay Company sent an expedition to the Canadian north coast. Their aim was to fill in the blanks on the map and to search for the elusive Northwest Passage.

The discovery of a new trading route around the northern coast of the Americas would revolutionise trade and travel to the Orient. The Northwest Passage would provide a faster alternative route to challenge the dangerous voyages around the horns of Africa or South America. 

Although explorers had been trying to map the route for decades, parts of the Arctic Ocean stayed frozen for months, and no one had found a way through.

John Rae made four expeditions north, gradually mapping Canada's northern coastline. In 1848, Rae discovered a small channel near Pelly Bay that finally completed the route that so many explorers had tried to discover.

John Rae had found the Northwest Passage.