As Europeans became aware of the “New World” to the west, many still remained determined to find a shortcut to Asia. This led to the fabled search for the Northwest Passage – a potential shortcut through the newly found continent of North America to Asia.
With new ship technology that enabled better navigation, searches for the Northwest Passage dominated exploration in the 1500’s and 1600’s. Voyages led by French explorers Jacques Cartier and Giovanni da Verrazano proved that there was not a water passage through the new continent. English explorers such as Henry Hudson and William Baffin searched for the Northwest Passage by trying to sail north of North America, but were met by forbidding arctic climate, snowstorms and icebergs. In deed, North America’s northern tier was no shortcut to Asia, though a Northwest Passage to Asia through North America of some sort does exist. In 1969, the U.S.S. Manhattan, an iceberg-breaking ship, was the first ever to reach Asia by traveling the Northwest Passage. Today, global warming has made the Northwest Passage an ice-free possibility. Today, ownership of the future Northwest Passage has been the subject of international territory disputes.