Exploration and Mapping

Humans first arrived in the Baffin Bay area around 4500 years ago in the first of three distinct migrations of Inuit from the west. The Inuit were attracted by the open water areas, which served for both food and transportation. The first Europeans to explore Baffin Bay were Norse, who established settlements in West Greenland in the 10th century and explored the Canadian side of the bay, perhaps as far south as Newfoundland. With the collapse of the Norse Greenland colonies in the 13th century, European knowledge of the bay was lost until 1587 when John Davis passed through what is now called Davis Strait searching for a North West Passage to Asia. William Baffin and Robert Bylot further explored the bay in 1616 and charted the positions of Jones, Lancaster, and Smith Sounds. Whaling in Baffin Bay developed rapidly after these voyages, although the treacherous ice and weather conditions in the bay claimed many ships. The 19th century was another period of exploration, including the voyages of John Franklin (1819), William Parry (1819), and John Ross (1829). A dramatic expansion of knowledge of Baffin Bay began in the mid-1800s with the loss of a large expedition led by John Franklin and the subsequent rescue efforts. Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound formed part of the route taken by Roald Amundsen, who finally completed the North West Passage in 1903-1905.

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