Because the long version is here, this will the short version. Lorne Gunter writes in this morning's Post re the melting Arctic and the "opening" of the Northwest Passage:
As Mr. [Noel] Sheppard points out, the great Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen navigated the Northwest Passage in 1905 in a wooden sailboat with a crew of just seven. The passage was sufficiently ice-free that year for the little craft to make it through with little ice-breaking capacity.
And in 1944, the tiny RCMP patrol vessel the St. Roch (which can still be seen at the Vancouver Maritime Museum) sailed from Halifax to Vancouver through the passage in a single season --a first --because it met little ice.
This is almost a word for word re-hack of a Noel Sheppard Blog Post from NuzeBuzzsters, so in honor of the sloppy journalism it represents, let me just note that:
1) Amundsen's ship, The Gjøa, was a shallow draft sail-boat. During the voyage, it travelled through water less than a foot deep. No other vessel could have followed its course and made that passage.
And, oh yes, it spent months stuck in the ice.
2) The St. Roch's success on its second trip through the Arctic (during the first it spent a winter...wait for it... stuck in the ice) was due as much to a specially designed, "ice fortified" hull that had itself been upgraded and reinforced for the journey, than it was to "ice free" conditions in the Arctic Sea.
The situation today is very different, and when people say that the Northwest Passage is "open" they mean "Open for Business", not that your boat just might squeak through if it has a reinforced hull and you are willing to spend weeks camping on an iceberg.