Historical and Current Uses of the Northern Sea Route: Part I

(By Terence Armstrong, Jens Petter Nielsen ; INSROP Working Paper No. 28 – 1996, IV.1.1)


The first part of INSROP project IV.1.1 (58 pages) covers the history of the Northern Sea Route from the middle of the 16th century until 1743. The emphasis, quite naturally, is placed on exploration and cartography, since the period saw little economic activity or political controversy over the Northern Sea Route. The chronicle is divided equally between the first British and Dutch expeditions in search of an alternative sea route from Europe to Asia, and the Russian expeditions connected with Vitus Bering’s name, also called the first and second Kamtchatka expeditions (1725-43), which Armstrong refers to as “the most remarkable piece of Arctic research accomplished by the Russians, or indeed by any other nation up to that time”. The deployment of great resources and an impressive scientific team made available an impressive amount of information about the nature and extent of Russia’s Arctic and Pacific coasts, the Area of the Northern Sea Route.

Armstrong’s report is based on a large amount of sources and literature, the most important secondary source being the works of the Soviet historian M. I. Belov. This working paper will be followed up by a second part, written by Edwin Okhuizen and covering the period until 1850, a third (1850-1917) and fourth part (1917-the 1990s) written by Jens Petter Nielsen and Vladimir Bulatov respectively.


    Terence Armstrong, Jens Petter Nielsen, 1996, Historical and Current Uses of the Northern Sea Route: Part I, INSROP.©