Arctic Exploration

Arctic exploration began in the Elizabethan era when English seamen sought a shortcut to the Spice Islands of the Far East by the seas north of America — the so-called Northwest Passage.

Northwest Passage

January 01, 1576

Arctic Exploration 

Frobisher launches first expedition

Martin Frobisher's first expedition left England in June 1576 and probably sighted what is now called Resolution Island (near Labrador) by the end of July. Factors including poor weather would eventually force Frobisher west, but not before he entered the bay that now carries his name (Frobisher Bay) — though he believed it was a strait — on present-day Baffin Island. There, he and his crew met the resident Inuit.

August 11, 1576

Arctic Exploration 

Frobisher Sights Baffin Island

Martin Frobisher sighted the bay in Baffin Island that now bears his name.

January 01, 1577

Arctic Exploration 

Frobisher launches second expedition

Martin Frobisher was appointed high admiral of his fleet and departed with his crew in the late spring of 1577, reaching Baffin Island in mid-July. He had direct orders from his sponsors to temporarily place his search for the Northwest Passage on hold in favour of gathering gold ore.

January 01, 1578

Arctic Exploration 

Frobisher launches third expedition

Martin Frobisher was chosen to lead 15 vessels and establish a colony on Baffin Island. The expedition left England in May 1578, arriving at Frobisher's “strait” in July. Attempts to start a settlement were eventually given up, and Frobisher and his men returned to England at the end of August.

August 31, 1578

Arctic Exploration 

Frobisher’s “Fool’s Gold”

Explorer Martin Frobisher set out from Frobisher Bay to return to England, his ships loaded with what he thought was gold ore. He and his men had mined over a thousand tonnes of ore in the previous month, which turned out to be worthless iron pyrite, or “fool’s gold.”

April 16, 1786

Arctic Exploration 

Birth of Sir John Franklin

Sir John Franklin, arctic explorer whose loss triggered the greatest search in the history of exploration, was born at Spilsby, Eng.

January 10, 1850

Arctic Exploration 

Search for Franklin Begins

Robert McClure and Richard Collinson began the extensive search for Franklin, likely the greatest search mission in the history of exploration. In the process, more was revealed of the geography of the North than at any other time.

October 22, 1854

Arctic Exploration 

Rae Learns Fate of Franklin

John Rae learned of the fate of Franklin and his crew from Inuit around Pelly Bay. Franklin's ship had become frozen into the northern ice in 1846, setting off one of the most extensive rescue operations in the history of exploration. Based on Inuit reports and evidence of personal effects, John Rae claimed the £10,000 reward for settling Franklin's fate.

December 31, 1876

Arctic Exploration 

Death of Tookoolito

Inuit Arctic guide Tookoolito, also known as Hannah, died. Born on Cape Searle (in present-day Nunavut), Tookoolito joined exploration expeditions with her husband, Ipiirvik. They accompanied American explorer Charles Hall on his Arctic journeys, including the ill-fated Polaris expedition, during which the couple saved many of the crew from icy deaths.

January 01, 1987

Arctic Exploration 

Iqaluit Named

The town of Frobisher Bay, NWT, changed its name to Iqaluit.

September 09, 2014

Arctic Exploration 

Franklin Expedition Ship Discovered

The HMS Erebus, one of Sir John Franklin's expedition ships, was found submerged off the coast of King William Island. The ship was part of Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia.

September 12, 2016

Arctic Exploration 

Discovery of HMS Terror

A team from the Arctic Research Foundation (founded by Jim Balsillie) announced that they had found the second lost ship of the Franklin expedition, HMS Terror, in Nunavut’s Terror Bay, north of where the Erebus was found in 2014. The discovery was confirmed by Parks Canada on 26 September 2016.