Samuel Hearne becomes first European to see Arctic Ocean

On today’s date in 1770, Samuel Hearne left Prince of Wales’ fort in Hudson’s Bay and would eventually journey all the way to the Coronation Gulf, where he was the first European to see the Arctic Ocean.

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English explorer Samuel Hearne was the first European to see the Arctic Ocean after traversing the Copperine River through northwestern Canada.

In 1969, the Sherritt Mint of Canada issued a sterling silver medal to commemorate Samuel Hearne and his overland trip to the Arctic Ocean. The medal, stamped “925” on its edge and weighing about 17 grams, was
issued in a strictly limited run.

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Hearne’s voyage was commemorated on a Sherritt Mint of Canada medal in 1969.

By traversing the Coppermine River to the Arctic Ocean with the help of local aboriginals, Hearne discovered there was no northwest passage connecting Hudson’s Bay to the Pacific Ocean. His expeditions also served its main goal, which was discovering copper in the river basin; however, an intensive search of the area determined commercial mining was unviable. Hearne eventually made his way back to Prince of Wales’ fort in Churchill, Manitoba.

On the trip back home, Hearne also became the first European to see and cross Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. He returned to the fort on June 30, 1772 after walking about 8,000 kilometres and exploring more than 650,000 square kilometres.

Hearne died of edema in November 1792 at the age of 47.

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