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Sir John Franklin's life reads like an adventure novel. He had a distinguished military career in Europe, Australia and North America in the service of the British army. In 1818 he was chosen to take part in a British expedition to find the Northwest Passage. In 1819 he led a mapping expedition to Hudson Bay and the Arctic coast. He began his third expedition to the Arctic coast, this time to explore the Mackenzie delta, in 1825. Franklin died tragically in about 1847 when his ship got caught in the ice during his fourth Arctic expedition.
From 1903 to 1905 Roald Amundsen explored Canada's frigid Arctic waters and sailed through the Northwest Passage. Just like Franklin several decades earlier, Amundsen's ship was caught in the ice. He was better prepared than Franklin, though, and survived the trip. It became clear, however, that the Northwest Passage would never become a viable commercial route.
The most controversial of the Arctic explorers is undoubtedly Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Born in Manitoba of Icelandic parents, Stefansson made three important trips -- to the Beaufort Sea in 1906, to Victoria Island in 1908 and to the western Arctic from 1913 to 1918. Stefansson was controversial because of his ability to manipulate the media and because he didn't always follow instructions from his "bosses" in the Canadian government.
For more on explorers, see Library and Archives Canada's Pathfinders & Passageways website.