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S.S. Manhattan breaks through

The Story

It's 1969, and CBC journalist Norman DePoe is reporting from the deck of a Canadian icebreaker travelling alongside a huge American tanker, the S.S. Manhattan. The Manhattan is trying to prove the Northwest Passage is a viable commercial route for shipping oil. Referring to its large size, DePoe playfully calls the Manhattan "a monster." He later notes that the first officer of the Macdonald is "giving odds of 3 to 1 on Manhattan's successful breaking of the Northwest Passage, and doing it with relative ease." The Manhattan beats the odds. 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: Sept. 8, 1969
Reporter: Norman DePoe
Duration: 2:05

Did You know?

• The Manhattan made another voyage through the passage in 1970.
• Both voyages were successful, demonstrating that the passage could be used for commercial shipping purposes. But the boat experienced a lot of damage, and it therefore wasn't considered to be a cost-effective shipping method at the time. Plans for widespread use of the passage for shipping didn't come to fruition in the 1970s.
• The voyages of the American commercial tanker sparked a great deal of concern among Canadians about maintaining sovereignty of the passage as traffic increases.
• The U.S. never asked Canada's permission for the Manhattan voyages. In an effort to assert its sovereignty, however, Canada granted unsolicited permission and provided a Canadian icebreaker to escort the Manhattan (the ship on which DePoe is travelling in this clip).


Breaking the Ice: Canada and the Northwest Passage more