Sailing the St. Roch

When Canada’s History visited the Vancouver Maritime Museum we were treated to a tour of the prized St. Roch — the first vessel to sail the Northwest Passage from west to east and the first to circumnavigate North America.
by Danelle Cloutier December 17, 2013

When Canada’s History visited the Vancouver Maritime Museum we were treated to a tour of the prized St. Roch — the first vessel to sail the Northwest Passage from west to east, the first to complete the passage in one season, and the first to circumnavigate North America.

Board Chairman Dr. Craig Beattie gave us some insight into the adventures of St. Roch, its construction, and how it’s preserved.

Sailing through the Northwest Passage

St. Roch was the first vessel to sail from west-to-east through the Northwest Passage, a series of channels through the Arctic Archipelago. The trip started at Vancouver on June 23, 1940, and ended in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on October 11,1942. Listen as Dr. Beattie explains the vessel’s most famous journeys.



The vessel's construction

The hull is one of St. Roch’s special features because of its clever design. Dr. Beattie explains what makes the hull so special and other features of the vessel.



Preserving the vessel

St. Roch was built about eighty-six years ago and landed in its home at the Vancouver Maritime Museum in 1954 (see slide at the top of this page). Dr. Beattie discusses how the museum preserves the vessel and the challenges that the museum faces.



St. Roch’s engine

Did you know St. Roch is powered by a diesel engine? Learn more about the engine from Dr. Beattie.



Precautions people took on the ship

Can you imagine being aboard St. Roch and sailing across the Arctic, not knowing whether you will be stuck in ice for the winter? Dr. Beattie tells us how the St. Roch crew prepared for their trips.



Captain Larsen

Growing up, Henry Larsen wanted to follow in the footsteps of explorer Roald Amundsen, the first person to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage from east-to-west. Larsen did get to follow in Amundsen’s footsteps in 1940 after twelve years as the master commander of St. Roch for the RCMP (see slide at the top of this page).Dr. Beattie talks about Captain Larsen and Amundsen.



Visit our Destinations channel to plan a visit or learn more about the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

Posted December 17, 2013; revised March 5, 2015.

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