Sailing the St. Roch through the Northwest Passage

Here I am in the St. Roch, steering the ship through the Northwest Passage.

OK, OK, so I am hard at work in the St. Roch Wheelhouse Experience, which is nearly the same thing, right? This is at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, where tonight I gave a talk called Breaking the Ice: Dead Reckoning in the Northwest Passage. Saw some beautiful people there. But what really got me going was this virtual adventuring . . . and, even more, the St. Roch itself.

This is the ship — and no mere facsimile — that Henry Larsen sailed through the Passage from Vancouver to Halifax in 1940-42. That voyage, designed to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, took 28 months, including two winters in the ice. After installing a 300-hp diesel engine, and making other adjustments, Larsen sailed back to Vancouver in 1944 in just 86 days.

The ship is beautifully restored, and bears comparison with any of the ships you see in Oslo — and that is not faint praise. Interesting fact: the St. Roch is 31.6 metres long, 7.6 metres wide, and displaces 323 tons. The Terror, recently discovered off King William Island, was almost exactly the same size: 31 metres long, 325 tons. You can draw your own conclusions. But it certainly looks as if, in the right hands, the Terror could have sailed through Rae Strait and even Simpson Strait, and gone on to complete the Passage.(Pic by Sheena.)

Leave a Comment