After Columbus has sailed to the West Indies also the search for the northern alternative to reach India became attractive. Over four hundred years ago Dutch Willem Barentz started to sail the North East passage towards east, but he did not get very far. After mapping Spitsbergen and Frantz Josef land he stranded on Novaya Zemilya. After this it took awhile until next expeditions became true, and even in the 19th century, nobody understood the northern environment and its challenges to people and equipment. Today we know perhaps too much. Today nobody would go and risk his life without having a heavily strengthened vessel around him. We have moved all the way from wooden sailing ships to nuclear powered vessels and year-round navigation. Part of this is due to climate change but also because the search for oil is moving further north. This paper brings us back from history to modern times and discusses the recent history what we have accomplished during the last decades and also tries to give some future views.

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