John Bockstoce, an Arctic explorer from South Dartmouth, Mass., visited Victoria’s harbour in 1983 soon after departing Seattle aboard his 60’ motor sailer Belvedere. His visit was the first stop on his historic 3,000-mile west to east Northwest Passage voyage through the Bering Sea to the Davis Strait. He and the vessel’s skipper, Sven Johansson, accomplished their 22,000-mile odyssey over six summers. At the end of each navigation season, in August or September, the Belvedere had to be hauled out of the water and stored for the winter to escape the crushing ice.
Belvedere‘s Historic Accomplishment
The yacht Belvedere courtesy of Northwest Passage 2014 blog
The quest to find a northern sea route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans dates back to 1497, when the British explorer John Cabot failed in the first concerted attempt to find the elusive passage. In 1906 the Norwegian explorer Raold Amundsen’s east to west voyage was the first successful transit. The Belvedere was the first yacht to sail west to east through the Northwest Passage.
Sven Johansson is a veteran of the Canadian Arctic. He served as Belvedere’s skipper for the successful six sailing season voyage.
For his life-long contribution to the understanding of the Canadian arctic Johansson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1979. He was appointed to the Order of Canada on October 23rd 1993, and Invested on February 16th 1994.
He lived on board the full rigged sailing ship North Star of Herschel Island in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. In 1996 he sold the North Star and moved ashore in Victoria BC to pursue a new career as a ballet choreographer and film maker.