HUNDREDS of men and dozens of ships have dared to challenge the forbidding Northwest Passage, only to be crushed. In 1845, Sir John Franklin and his crew were driven to cannibalism. Henry Hudson was set adrift after his crew discovered that he had been pilfering the ship's stores. When Robert McClure finally traversed the passage in 1854, he went the final 200 miles by dogsled.

Aboard the mammoth oil tanker S.S. Manhattan last week, latter-day explorers could relive the ordeals in the comfort of the ship's library. After traveling aboard the Manhattan on its...

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