Sign In

- Or use -
Forgot Password Create Account
Introduction:

During the early 1590s, the leading merchants of the Dutch Republic became very interested in opening trade routes with East Asia. Yet, they were deeply concerned that the established route to Asia, by way of the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean, was under the control of the Portuguese, who were enemies of the Dutch. Moreover, the established route was very long, and it was thought that any navigable polar route to Asia would be more expeditious.

While exploring the Northwest Passage via the North American Arctic was considered, the failure of Martin Frobisher and John Davis's various attempts to find such a route in the 1570s and 1580s discouraged any efforts in this direction. In 1553-54, the English adventurers Sir Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor attempted to find a Northeast Passage to Asia, over Siberia, and while their mission ultimately failed in this regard, their progress and the nature of their reports convinced many in Amsterdam that such a passage could quite plausibly be opened, given another attempt. This torch was to be carried by Willem Barentsz.

Willem Barentsz (c. 1550-1597) was a Dutch map maker and explorer and one of the great pioneers of Arctic exploration. His first major work was an atlas of the Mediterranean, which he co-published with Petrus Plancius. Barentsz believed that the polar regions consisted of open waters above Siberia, due to the fact that they would be exposed to the sun 24 hours per day.

In the last decade of the sixteenth century, Barentsz made three voyages to the North Polar regions. In June 1594, Barentsz led an expedition of three ships which sailed from Texel for the Kara Sea. On this voyage, the crew made the first ever encounter with a polar bear. Barentsz's first voyage reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya. After coasting northward, the crew encountered large icebergs and were forced to turn back and return to Holland.

In 1595, Prince Maurice of Orange commissioned a second expedition led by Barentsz, which included six ships and a cargo of goods which were intended for trade with China. The expedition made several noteworthy encounters with Samoyed "wilde men" and polar bears, but was forced to turn back when they encountered a frozen Kara Sea.

In 1596, the Town Council of Amsterdam sponsored another voyage of two ships. They hoped to claim a reward offered by the Dutch States-General to the first expedition that navigated the Northeast Passage. Barentsz’s third voyage discovered Spitsbergen, before reaching Bear Island on July 1, 1596 and Novaya Zemla on July 17, 1596. Shortly thereafter, Barentsz's ship was stranded by ice and the sixteen-man crew was forced to winter there. After the spring thaw, the crew set out in two small boats on June 13; Barentsz died roughly seven days later. Seven weeks on, the remainder of the crew reached Kola and were rescued by a Russian merchant ship. The crew made it back to Amsterdam in November 1597 and several crew members wrote accounts of the voyage.

The wooden lodge where Barentsz's crew spent the winter was not revisited until 1871, when it was discovered by the Norwegian seal hunter Elling Carlsen. In 1875, Captain Gunderson returned to the site and collected several artifacts, including two maps and a handwritten translation of the Pet and Jackman voyages. In 1876, Charles L.W. Gardiner visited the site and collected many more artifacts and documents, including Barentsz's and Jacob van Heemskerck's notes on the settlement.


Place/Date:
Amserdam / 1606 circa
Size:
19.5 x 15 inches
Condition:
VG
Stock#:
75738

Archived

Place/Date:
Amserdam / 1619 circa
Size:
19.5 x 15 inches
Condition:
VG+
Stock#:
56264