Across the Top of the World is a tale that rivals the story of Antarctic exploration for heroism, drama and tragedy. In the great age of Exploration, the quest for the fabled Northwest Passage lured bold adventurers to the icy Arctic. They risked and sometimes lost their lives in search of a sea route across the top of the world, connecting Europe with Asia and its riches. This spellbinding saga of Arctic exploration is brought to life by quotations from grim first-hand accounts and by dramatic images, ICC colour and 100 black and white. These paintings, engravings and photos of the intrepid men and their ships, as well as of relics and archaeological sites, provide a poignant and compelling link with the past. Landscapes and seascapes of the harsh yet beautiful Arctic illustrate the challenges that faced explorers.
The Inuit, the native people of the Arctic, lived in isolation until Europeans began to arrive in the sixteenth century, and relations were not always cordial. For centuries, nations sent out expedition after expedition to search for the Northwest Passage, each one suffering extreme hardship. The most tragic was the mysterious loss of Sir John Franklin, his 128 men and two ships in the 1840s. Attempts to sail the dangerous, icy maze of the passage ended in defeat until Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen succeeded in 1903-1906. Then, in the 1940s, to assert Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner, St. Koch, became the second vessel to conquer the passage. This set the stage for the modern phase of Arctic exploration utilizing icebreakers and American nuclear-powered submarines. James Delgado writes with the passion and authority of an underwater archaeologist and historian who has taken part in Arctic expeditions.close this panel