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Northeast Passage,water route along the northern coast of Europe and Asia, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Beginning in the 15th cent., efforts were made to find a new all-water route to India and China. Most of these attempts were directed at seeking a Northwest PassageNorthwest Passage,
water routes through the Arctic Archipelago, N Canada, and along the northern coast of Alaska between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Even though the explorers of the 16th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. . However, English, Dutch, and Russian navigators did try to seek a northeast route by sailing along the northern coast of Russia and far into the arctic seas.
In the 1550s, English ships made the first attempt to find the passage. Willem BarentzBarentz or Barents, Willem
, d. 1597, Dutch navigator. He made three voyages (1594, 1595, 1596–97) in search of the Northeast Passage to Asia. He reached Novaya Zemlya on the first two expeditions.
..... Click the link for more information. , the Dutch navigator, made several futile voyages in the 1590s, as did Henry HudsonHudson, Henry,
fl. 1607–11, English navigator and explorer. He was hired (1607) by the English Muscovy Company to find the Northeast Passage to Asia. He failed, and another attempt (1608) to find a new route was also fruitless.
..... Click the link for more information. in the early 17th cent. The decline of Dutch shipping in the 1700s left the exploration mainly to the Russians; among the men sent out was Vitus BeringBering, Vitus Jonassen
, 1681–1741, Danish explorer in Russian employ. In 1725 he was selected by Peter I to explore far NE Siberia. Having finally moved men and supplies across Siberia, Bering in 1728 sailed N through Bering Strait but sighted no land and did not
..... Click the link for more information. , who explored the eastern part of the passage. The Russian Great Northern Expedition (1733–43) explored most of the coast of N Siberia. The Northeast Passage was not, however, traversed by anyone until Nils A. E. NordenskjöldNordenskjöld, Nils Adolf Erik, Baron
, 1832–1901, Swedish geologist and arctic explorer, first to navigate the Northeast Passage, b. Finland. He served as geologist on several expeditions to Spitsbergen under Otto Torrell, the noted Swedish geologist, on one of which
..... Click the link for more information. of Sweden accomplished the feat in 1878–79. In the early 1900s, icebreakers sailed through the passage, and in the 1930s the Northern Sea Route, a shipping lane, was established by the USSR.
Since World War II the Soviet Union and now Russia has maintained a regular summer-to-autumn highway for shipping along this passage through the development of new ports and the exploitation of resources in the interior. A fleet of Russian icebreakers, aided by aerial reconnaissance and by radio weather stations, keeps the route navigable until the expansion of the ice in winter prevents shipping. The decrease in ocean ice in the Arctic due to global warmingglobal warming,
the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. Global warming and its effects, such as more intense summer and winter storms, are also referred to as climate
..... Click the link for more information. has led to an increase of shipping through the Arctic and to the creation of shipping lanes further from the Russian coast; the routes cut the distance between N Eurasian Atlantic and Pacific ports by several thousand miles.