*Includes contemporary accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
Most anyone who has received a basic education in world history knows the story of how “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Most also know that Christopher Columbus made first contact with the Americas while searching for a water route to Asia. However, far fewer people remember that the search for such a route continued for centuries after Columbus’ death. After the discovery of the Americas, several European countries were interested in finding the route, and nations from France to Spain sent out explorers searching for the mysterious route. While these voyages did not reveal the hoped for route, they did result in large parts of both North and South America being mapped, and as more of the new land mass was determined, the parameters of the search for such a route were narrowed. By the 18th century, explorers began to seek such a route to the north, looking for the legendary Northwest Passage.
Eventually, some countries lost interest, but England remained determined, and the masters of the waves continued to send ship after ship and crew after crew across the Atlantic. By the early 19th century, the search was taking expeditions to the Arctic, and each time a team returned to England telling stories of how it was stymied by ice or bad weather, another team confidently went out, certain that it would be the one to make it through.