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Banner: Pathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of Canada About This Site
The Mapmakers: An Essay in Four Parts
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The Arctic and More

19th Century

With Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coasts mapped, attention again turned to the Arctic. The desire to find a northwest passage had waned somewhat with the growing suspicion that such a water passage, if it existed, would never be commercially viable. However, Cook's recent voyages, as well as whalers' reports of shifting ice in the Arctic, had piqued European interest in Canada's north. Also, the end of the Napoleonic wars left the British navy without a purpose.

Robert McClure managed to complete the passage partly by water, and partly by land. His success was largely due to the survival strategies he enthusiastically copied from the Inuit. This lesson was hard earned, as the feat was achieved only after several disastrous British military-led expeditions over the better part of a century.

Towards the end of the century, the motives for geographical exploration in Canada became, increasingly, scientific: investigation of climate, flora, fauna, geology and anthropology. Most of the expeditions were made by Canadians, Americans and Norwegians. Some were privately financed, but increasingly government agencies and museums were involved. The Carnegie Museum (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) alone sponsored nine expeditions between 1901 and 1920 to subarctic regions to study bird populations.

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