The Route

Map from Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. Courtesy of Ken McGoogan


Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to sail through the Northwest Passage in 1903–1906. Amundsen’s Gjøa was the first vessel to transit the passage. In the spring of 1854, making his the third of his overland expeditions, it was John Rae who discovered the fate of John Franklin and his men and discovered there was an open channel to the east of King William Island. Rae was the first to show that Boothia Peninsula was indeed a peninsula therefore discovering the final link of the Northwest Passage. This strait now bears his name; Rae Strait. Since Amundsen’s famous voyage, many vessels and explorers have made safe passage through what is known as the Northwest Passage.


On March 31st 1854, Rae set off on his last great exploratory journey. He encountered ferocious blizzards and freezing cold, which made sledge pulling all the more difficult. Rae had been known to cover 1500 km in just over a month. That works out to an average of more than 40 km per day – an incredible feat of strength and determination. At forty years old, Rae was fit and healthy and highly regarded by the local Inuit. Those he met and learnt from called him; Aglooka – “he who takes long strides”. After discovering “Rae Strait” on the west coast of Boothia Peninsula, he turned around and began the long journey back to Naujaat (Repulse Bay)
Map by Dawn Huck, from Fatal Passage. Courtesy of Ken McGoogan
Arctic Return Expedition Location


Naujaat (Repluse Bay) lies directly on top of the Arctic Circle. The community is located on the southern end of the Melville Peninsula. Gjoa Haven is the only community located on King William Island. Between the two communities lies the Simpson Peninsula and the Boothia Peninsula. The Arctic Return team will cover around 650 km across a combination of sea ice and land. The team will take with them all the food and supplies necessary for at least 35 days. The communities of Kugaaruk and Taloyoak are not on the expedition route, but will be made aware of the expedition and its progress.


The Arctic Return team will fly from Winnipeg northbound to Naujaat in Nunavut. After two days of meetings, consultation, preparation and packing, the expedition team will initially head west and then north towards Committee Bay. Then, travelling northwest will pass just to the south of the community of Kugaaruk and head west across Boothia Peninsula. The team will emerge on the west side of Boothia at the top of Rasmussen Basin and follow Rae’s route to the mouth of the Castor and Pollux River. From there, the team will proceed north along the coast to Point De La Guiche, where Rae and his companions built a cairn overlooking the strait he had discovered. From this point, the route will cross the sea ice and Rae Strait to King William Island and then finally heading south to Gjoa Haven.