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On the trail of the St. Roch

It's been called "the Arctic Grail." For centuries, European explorers were obsessed with the quest for a route around North America to the Orient. Norway's Roald Amundsen finally conquered the Northwest Passage in 1906. But long Arctic winters meant the route couldn't be exploited commercially. Global warming could change all that by melting the ice and making the passage a key shipping route. But as this happens, the controversial question of sovereignty becomes increasingly important. Does the Northwest Passage belong to Canada or the world?

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It was the first ship to traverse the Northwest Passage from west to east. But now, dry rot is destroying the hull of Canada's St. Roch. To raise awareness that this very important historic artifact is rotting in Vancouver's Maritime Museum, the St. Roch II has just finished circumnavigating North America. That's "no easy feat, even now," says CBC announcer Alison Smith. The goal of the voyage was also to make money to restore the original ship. But as we see in this 2000 TV clip, the fund-raising results were disappointing. 
. In 1995, Parks Canada stopped funding maintenance to the St. Roch as a results of federal budget cuts.
. Despite the goal of raising $3 million in donations, the 2000 voyage of the St. Roch II raised only $50,000 by the journey's end, which went towards covering the costs of the trip.
. The museum continues to seek funds to save the ship. By 2006, its website was still making this plea: "By supporting the St. Roch Preservation Fund, you help us save this enduring symbol of ordinary men rendered heroic by extreme circumstances at the top of the world."
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 14, 2000
Guest(s): Ken Burton, Steve Rybak
Announcer: Alison Smith
Reporter: Eve Savory
Duration: 5:16

Last updated: July 19, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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