The Longest Song Wiki

Originally written by famed songwriter Stan Rogers of Nova Scotia (Barrett's Privateers), Northwest Passage is another instant classic of Rogers' that rapidly spread through the folk community. Rogers wrote the song in 1982.

Though it does not appear on any of their albums, it is one of the most frequently sung songs for The Longest Johns, featured in ten videos including six livestreams.


Rogers' own recording of the song features an error, wherein he refers to British explorer Henry Kelsey as "Brave Kelso." Rogers admits in a 1982 interview that he hadn't been sure of the name when recording the song, as reported in Canadian Literature in English by Laura Moss (2008). The Longest Johns correct this error in their rendition.

The song commemorates the numerous expeditions to find a northern sea route around Canada, and offers direct homage to the Franklin expedition in particular.


These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns in their Livestreams, except as noted above the lyrics do not differ from Rogers' original.

Ah for just one time I would take the Northwest passage,
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea,
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage,
And make a Northwest passage to the sea.

Westward from the Davis Strait 'twas there 'twas said to lie,
The sea route to the Orient for which so many died,
Seeking gold and glory, leaving weathered broken bones,
And a long forgotten, lonely cairn of stones.


Three centuries thereafter I take passage overland,
In the footsteps of brave Kelsey, where his "Sea of Flowers" began,
Watching cities rise before me, then behind me sink again,
This tardiest explorer, driving hard across the plain.


{JD and Andy}
And through the night, behind the wheel, the mileage clicking West,
I think upon McKenzie, David Thompson and the rest,
(Who cracked the mountain ramparts and did show a path for me,
To race the roaring Fraser to the sea.)


How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them I left a settled life, I threw it all away,
To seek a Northwest passage at the call of many men,
and to find there but the road back home again.