Any number of European explorers attempted to find the Passage; all failed until Roald Amunsen negotiated the passage in the early 20th century. The common belief of the day was that many rivers ran from one ocean to the other; therefore rivers were the key to finding the Northwest Passage. Much of the exploration of Northern North America came from those seeking the passage through rivers.
The first recorded attempt was by John Cabot (real name Giovanni Caboti) who was commissioned by Henry VII of England
to seeke out, discouer, and finde whatsoever isles, countreys, regions or prouinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoeuer they be, and in what part of the world soeuer they be, which before this time haue bene vnknowen to all Christians: we haue granted to them, and also to euery of them, the heires of them, and euery of them, and their deputies, and haue giuen them licence to set vp our banners and ensignes in euery village, towns, castle, isle, or maine land of them newly found. And'that the aforesayd Iohn and his sonnes, or their heires and assignee may subdue, occupy and possesse all such townes, cities, castles and isles of them found, which they can subdue, occupy and possesse, as our vassals, and lieutenants, getting vnto vs the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, townes, castles, & firme land so found. Yet so that the aforesayd Iohn, and his sonnes and heires, and their deputies, be holden and bounder of all the fruits, profits, gaines, and commodities growing of such navigation, for euery their voyage, as often as they shall arrine at our port of Bristoll (at the which port they shall be bound and holden onely to arrine) all maner of necessary costs and charges by them made, being deducted, to pay vnto vs in wares or money the lift part of the capital! gaine so gotten. We gluing and granting vnto them and to their heires and deputies, that they shall be free from all paying of customer of all and singular such merchandise as they shall be free from all paying of customes of all and singular they shall bring with them from those places so newlie found.
Cabot's expedition was the first English expedition to reach North America. In 1524, Giavanni de Verazanno, sailing for the French, attempted to find the passage and travelled from Cape Hatteras North Carolina to the coast of Maine. In a later trip he sailed into the Caribbean sea where he met the Carib Indians. They were cannibals, and he did not survive the encounter. Jacques Cartier, sailing for the French, travelled into the Gulf of St. Lawrence seeking the passage. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, attempted to find the North West Passage and lost his entire fortune on the expedition. Henry Hudson made two voyages seeking the passage, during the first he sailed into the Hudson River and on the second into Hudson Bay, where he was set adrift by his crew. Finally, Lasalle travelled down the MIssissippi River seeking the passage.