Business: A $40 MILLION GAMBLE ON THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

FOR nearly five centuries, merchants and mariners have dreamed of opening a commercial sea lane across the top of Canada and Alaska. Venetian Explorer John Cabot, in search of a short trade route to the Orient, made the first unsuccessful attempt to sail through the frozen Arctic Ocean in 1498. Dozens of others—French, English and Portuguese—followed in his wake, but it was not until Norwegian Roald Amundsen piloted the small yacht Gjoa through the ice-choked waterway in 1906 that the Northwest Passage was finally discovered. Since then, only six vessels have completed the treacherous voyage, and the passage remains unused by...

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