The Ancient mariner

Posted by Ken Campbell January 3, 2012 0 Comment 683 views

The search for the Northwest Passage, the fabled Strait of Anian, was an exploring boondoggle that launched a thousand ships. Maybe not a thousand, but a good few dozen, anyway. The pursuit of an ice-free shipping lane from Europe to the west coast of North America, running through the high arctic, has been the subject of great interest for centuries. Claims were made throughout the years that the passage had, in fact, been located; none of these claims were backed up by reality.
Apostolos Valerianos, (or Juan de Fuca, as he is better known), was one of those who claimed to have discovered the route back in 1592. A greek navigator, working for the King of Spain, he returned from a voyage up the Northwest coast with news that he had located the western terminus of the sought-after waterway. (There’s a fair bit of controversy surrounding the idea that Mr. Valerianos ever even saw the passage in question, but there’s no way to know for sure. He was right about some of the details, wrong about others.) The Strait of Juan de Fuca, as it is known today, turned out to be another false alarm but, as far as residents of western Washington are concerned, it all turned out for the best.
Ironically, the Northwest Passage is becoming a reality now, after all these years. Climate change and the ongoing thawing of the arctic has provided an open water route where pack ice used to be. Commercial ships have been using this northern route for a few seasons now and the traffic is projected to increase significantly in the decades to come.
There is a standing rock just south of the entrance to the straits called the de Fuca Pillar. It is a striking monolith, set among a garden of towering stones, where waves and wind are constantly at work, sculpting the coastline. It is a fine place to kayak.

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