Vitus Bering

Payer - Nordpol Expedition

A. E. Nordenskiöld

The Northeast Passage
Following several attempts by Willem Barentzs in the 1590s, a long time passed before anyone attempted to force their way through the Northeast Passage. The Great Nordic Expedition, however, explored the Siberian coast between 1734-1743. One of the leading figures of this expedition was the Danish Vitus Bering. He had previously sailed through the Bering Strait as early as 1728.

An 1872-1874 Austrian-Hungarian polar expedition, led by Julius von Payer, had also intended to push through the Northeast Passage. They were trapped by ice at the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya and, one year later, they ended up in a similar situation on the southern coast of Franz Josef Land - which then was discovered and explored. Their vessel had to be abandoned there, but the expedition members managed to save themselves by reaching Novaya Zemlya before Russian hunting vessels returned them to Vardø.

Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832-1901) had thoroughly prepared for his expedition by having taken several preliminary voyages before leaving on the Vega, in 1878, to push through the Northeast Passage. He nearly reached his goal during the first summer. Nordenskiöld There were not many kilometers left when the Vega got trapped by ice at Cape Chelyushkin, in northern Siberia. The first voyage through the Northeast Passage was completed by the summer of 1879.

Roald Amundsen sailed through the Northeast Passage onboard the vessel Maud in 1918-1920. Maud had to spend two winters trapped by ice before finally making its way through.


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The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.