Britain meets Russia at White Sea Throat in the Arctic Ocean
There are many maritime waterways in the world called “throat”, such as the Turkish Strait, the Strait of Malacca, etc., but it is only this one that is directly named after the word “throat”.
In an extremely cold place with such a high latitude, the economic value of the White Sea Throat (Russian: Горло Белого моря) should not be great. If we go back five hundred years ago, this was one of the earliest windows for Russia to communicate with overseas countries. At that time, the White Sea was as important to Russia as the Baltic Sea later.
The objects of Russia’s external communication through the White Sea Throat (Russian: Горло Белого моря) are of course not ice, snow or polar bears, but the British Isles located in the northwest corner of the European continent.
As a rising star in the Age of Discovery, Britain faced the dilemma of poor national strength and shortage of funds, as well as the first-mover advantage of Spain and Portugal, the established maritime hegemons.
At that time, Spain and Portugal had already divided the world through the Papal Meridian. At the same time, routes from Europe to Asia and the New World were also being opened one after another. Britain seemed to have no choice but to follow.
The British, who were full of adventurous and exploratory spirits, were not willing to lag behind others. They keenly discovered that whether they were taking the eastern route via the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa or the western route via Cape Horn in South America, they both bypassed the southernmost tip of the known continent. In this case, is there also a certain route at the northernmost tip of the continent that can reach the Far East that Europeans dream of?
The British embarked on a journey to explore the Northern Route, starting from the Isle of Great Britain and then heading northeast into the North Sea. After heading north along the west coast of Scandinavia, the fleet began to sail into the icy Barents Sea. According to the plan, it should head all the way east.
However, the difficulties encountered by the fleet are far more severe than the stormy waves. Compared with the wind and waves, the severe cold is the most serious obstacle to this route.
The UK itself is located in a high latitude area. The British people who have been with the cold all year round are very adaptable to low temperatures. However, after entering the Barents Sea, they were still unable to withstand it. The following voyage proved that these were just the entry-level to the severe cold of the Arctic challenge.
Affected by the warm Atlantic current, the temperature of the Barents Sea is somewhat stronger than that of the adjacent eastern seas. Although there are some floating ice on the sea, it is generally able to allow sailboats to pass.
When the fleet arrived at Novaya Zemlya, the warm current from the Atlantic also ended, and the British nightmare began.
Novaya Zemlya runs from northeast to southwest and is more than a thousand kilometers long. It acts like a barrier blocking the warm Atlantic current to the west of the island, so the Kara Sea to the east of Novaya Zemlya becomes a veritable “ice ocean.”
The British fleet consisted of three sailing ships. The ice-breaking capabilities of these ships were useless in the face of the thick ice in the Kara Sea. Two of them froze directly on the sea surface, and all the crew members died of cold and starvation.
The remaining ship was accidentally hit by the storm and drifted near the Kola Peninsula, and an unexpected harvest appeared in front of the British.
The Kola Peninsula extends from Scandinavia to the southeast, with only a narrow channel between it and the northwest Russian continent. The British expedition ship entered the White Sea after passing through this waterway.
Because it is surrounded by land, this semi-enclosed intercontinental sea is even more suitable for navigation than the Barents Sea. At this time, Russia had just completed its internal integration. The original Grand Duke of Moscow became the Russian Tsar, but its territory had just expanded to the White Sea. According to the Russians’ plan to move closer to the West, they originally planned to fight the Swedes in the direction of the Baltic Sea. However, the unexpected arrival of the British provided Russia with a window for communication with Europe in advance.
The British’s route into the White Sea through the Throat Strait gave Russia an unexpected surprise. No one had thought that a group of pirates from Western Europe would appear in the cold north.
Moscow was overjoyed and immediately gave Britain a monopoly on trade. Arkhangelsk near the White Sea was built by Russia to develop trade with Britain.
This move is undoubtedly a win-win situation for both Britain and Russia. From the British perspective, the vast Russia, although backward, is still a source of raw materials and a dumping market. From the perspective of Tsarist Russia, the British piracy spirit and shipbuilding technology are what Russia wants.
For hundreds of years since then, the White Sea Throat (Russian: Горло Белого моря) has been responsible for the communication between Britain and Russia, until Peter the Great seized the Baltic Sea outlet by force.
After the construction of St. Petersburg, Russia had better options for facing the west, and the strategic status of the White Sea Throat (Russian: Горло Белого моря) gradually declined.