The north side of the strait rises steeply to approximately 450 m, and the south shore to approximately 750 m. The current in the strait can run at up to 8 kn and often changes its direction. It is also often filled with small icebergs which pose a danger to ships in the strait.
The first Europeans to see the strait were Captain William Kennedy and Joseph René Bellot who reached it by dogsled from Batty Bay in 1852. This proved that Somerset Island was an island and that Prince Regent Inlet had a difficult westward exit. In 1858 Francis Leopold McClintock tried to pass the strait and gave up. The strait was first crossed from west to east by the Hudson's Bay Company ship Aklavik in 1937, piloted by Scotty Gall. Henry Larsen crossed it in 1942 on the first west-east transit of the Northwest Passage.
The Fort Ross trading post, on the northern shore, was established in 1937 and lasted for eleven years, but the building has been refurbished and strengthened, and acts as a refuge for researchers and crews of small boats passing through.