Finding the Northeast Passage in Minecraft

Theoretically, this should be easy.  I just need to lay rails starting at location ABC and ending at location XYZ and my mighty rail loop project will be complete.  Actually, it would probably be north from location ABC to JKL, then turn east until I hit XYZ, because Minecraft, like early Pokemon titles, just doesn’t do diagonals very well.

Unfortunately, mere coordinates do not tell the full tale.  Terrain has a pretty big influence on where I lay my track.  Some days I look at a mountain range before me and decided to simply tunnel on through.  Other days I might try to go around if I can.  And sometimes I just go up and over.  The view is better when you go over, but I have to use a lot more powered rail to get up the side and it messes up my planned rail production ratios.

And then there are the wide open bodies of water.

That is the situation I am in now.  Between my current location and the link up point in the mesa biome there is a considerable amount of wet.

The water situation

The water situation

From the looks of it, there are two possible routes, both of which are going to require a bridge.

The southern route (red line on the map) is the most direct and, as such, will require the least amount of rail to complete, and rail is a limiting factor for me.  Right now I am on another mining binge to collect up iron for the next big building push.

The southern route will also likely only require me to build one more major supply and mining base.  Such bases aren’t a big deal, really.  In fact, I tend to enjoy building them up.  Skronk has noted my tendency to go overboard on them.  However, they are a distraction and use up more rail since part of any major supply base is a nether portal connected to the transit hub in the roof of the nether.

On the downside, the southern route will require a lot of bridging.

Again, it isn’t like I haven’t built bridges before.

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Bridge at the south end of the Great Northern Road

Bridge at the south end of the Great Northern Road, before rails

I even put in bridges occasionally where I might not strictly need them.

A wooden bridge to cross a valley

A wooden bridge to cross a valley

But I have gotten a bit picky about them.  I hate to do just a two-wide platform across a gap.  I want something that is a bit of the scenery in its own right.  And the longer the gap to cover, the more materials the bridge will need.

In addition, the south route also goes through a watery area, so I will be building bridges or platforms just to get to the bridge.  Finally, the long water gap where the bridge will need to go is a bit dull when it comes to scenery.

The northern route (the purple line on the map) will require a lot more rail as it goes the long way around the top before cutting back to the mesa biome.  That means a lot more mining for iron to build rails.  I have been pretty lucky in that regard so far though.  Iron has been reasonably abundant.

The northern route will also require a bridge, but not nearly as long as the southern route.  Actually, with my current plan, the route will need two bridges before it hits the mesa biome, but the second one will be very short.  (The mesa biome is another story.  I will be building bridges… or digging tunnels… there no matter which direction I choose.)

I also estimate that I will need two, or possibly three, major supply bases on the northern route.  Fun to build, and I persist in the fantasy that we’ll get a few more players on the server who might use those bases as start points for their own projects, but they are a distraction from the main project.

However, the northern route also offers some better scenery judging from my initial scouting, something that counts for a lot.

Waterfalls where my bridge will likely end up

Waterfalls where my bridge will likely end up

So I am leaning towards the northern route, mostly based on aesthetics.

However, while I am building up supplies, I also have a bit more scouting to do.   There is a potential third route north of the peninsula on which I am building.  I have to get in a boat and go explore further north to see if there is a closer land connection possible.

Fortunately, contrary to some rumors I hears, boats are still excellent scouting vehicles in Minecraft 1.9.

7 thoughts on “Finding the Northeast Passage in Minecraft

  1. Anthony Nichols

    If you do decide to follow the red line it would be pretty awesome to get a hefty supply of glass and do an underwater section…. A bit crazy — but super cool.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Anthony Nichols – I was actually already exploring the glass underwater tunnel idea recently. If I go up the purple line I might make the short bridge an underwater glass tunnel instead.


  3. Knug

    I tend to go the route that is more difficult to do (especially when playing in survivor mode) which is why I tend to build on top of mountains and why I love making ice structures (without having a silk-touch pick axe). because they’re hard to do.

    Boats are indeed decent scouting devices, although a horse is the only way to do land effectively. I have carved many canals and boat tunnels, just so I can sit in my boat and connect different lands. Because its hard to do.

    Bridges over water tend to be difficult, because if you are intent on maintaining at least a visual link to physics, you need a lot of material for your piers. Ocean can be quite deep.
    I love the lore reasons for doing what you’re doing – making a cohesive story with long timelines.


  4. pkudude99

    The purple line looks more interesting even on the map, much less to actually ride it once completed. Not that I will. Minecraft is one of those games that my kids love, but I just never got into.


  5. noileum

    I’ve a relatively paltry 2000 block distance to link up on my map I play with the kids as I had to get as far away from them as possible to build in peace but now I’m bored of riding a horse back to them when we play together.

    What’s your strategy for mining iron? I’m sitting on about 3 stacks currently but think I’ll need about another 10 before I have enough. Do you save it all and build in one go – or do it bit by bit as you gather the resources?

    I will make a waystation at somewhere interesting along the way I think, I’ve scouted out a nice mountain that I’m going to tunnel through, and fancy putting a small outpost at the peak of it so that’s prob where I’ll join it up


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