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The Northwest Passage


The Northwest Passage was written by Stan Rogers and recorded by him on his 1981 album of the same name. It has become one of Canada's unofficial anthems and was ranked fourth in a list of classic Canadian songs compiled by a Canadian radio station in 2005 (by way of comparison, a survey of Britain's favourite songs had Dancing Queen by Abba at number 4. Make of that what you will.)

It describes the search for the route to the Pacific across the top of Canada and mentions a number of explorers:

  • Captain Sir John Franklin died in 1847, his expedition having become icebound in his attempt to chart and navigate the Northwest passage; the crew were forced to abandon their ships and try to reach safety on foot. They all died, but not before some had, apparently, resorted to cannibalism.
  • Brave Kelso is Henry Kelsey, a late 17th century English explorer, of whose name Stan Rogers was unsure
  • David Thompson was another explorer of the interior of Canada.
  • Sir Alexander Mackenzie also tried to find the Northwest passage, but, having reached the Arctic Ocean some way short of Alaska, realised that he hadn't got Northwest enough. He later was the first to cross Canada by land, though he retired to his home country of Scotland.
  • Fraser, as mentioned in the song is not an explorer, but a river.

Incidentally, Stan Rogers died aged 33 in a fire aboard a plane in 1983.

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