Willem Barentsz bigraphy, stories - Dutch explorer and cartographer

Willem Barentsz : biography

- 20 June 1597

Willem Barentsz ( anglicized as William Barents or Barentz) (c. 1550 – 20 June 1597) was a Dutch navigator, cartographer, explorer, and a leader of early expeditions to the far north.


Willem Barentsz was born around the year 1550 on the island Terschelling in the Seventeen Provinces.

A cartographer by trade, Barentsz sailed to Spain and the Mediterranean to complete an atlas of the Mediterranean region, which he co-published with Petrus Plancius.

His career as an explorer was spent searching for the Northeast passage, which he reasoned must exist as clear, open water north of Siberia since the sun shone 24 hours a day, which he believed would have melted any potential ice.

First voyage

On 5 June 1594 Barentsz left the island of Texel aboard the smallAlexander, Philip Frederick. , 1915. ship Mercury,Mirsky, Jeannette. "To the Arctic!: The Story of Northern Exploration from Earliest Times", 1997. as part of a group of three ships sent out in separate directions to try and enter the Kara Sea, with the hopes of finding the Northeast passage above Siberia. Between 23 and 29 June, Barentsz stayed at Kildin Island.

On 9 July, the crew encountered a polar bear for the first time. After shooting it with a musket when it tried to climb aboard the ship, the seamen decided to capture it with the hope of bringing it back to Holland. Once leashed and brought aboard the ship however, the bear rampaged and had to be killed. This occurred in Bear Creek, Williams Island.

Upon discovering the Orange Islands, the crew came across a herd of approximately 200 walruses and tried to kill them with hatchets and pikes. Finding the task more difficult than they imagined, they left with only a few ivory tusks.

Barentsz reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya, and followed it northward before being forced to turn back in the face of large icebergs. Although they did not reach their ultimate goal, the trip was considered a success.

Second voyage

The following year, Prince Maurice of Orange was filled with "the most exaggerated hopes" on hearing of Barentsz' previous voyage, and named him Chief Pilot and Conductor of a new expedition, which was accompanied by six ships loaded with merchant wares that the Dutch hoped to trade with China.

Setting out on 2 June 1595, the voyage went between the Siberian coast and Vaygach Island. On 30 August, the party came across approximately 20 Samoyed "wild men" with whom they were able to speak, due to a crewmember speaking their language. 4 September saw a small crew sent to States Island to search for a type of crystal that had been noticed earlier. The party was attacked by a polar bear, and two sailors were killed.Beechey, F.W. "", 1843.

Eventually, the expedition turned back upon discovering that unexpected weather had left the Kara Sea frozen. This expedition was largely considered to be a failure.Scoresby, William. "", 1820.

Third voyage

In 1596, disappointed by the failure of previous expeditions, the States-General announced they would no longer subsidize similar voyages – but instead offered a high reward for anybody who successfully navigated the Northeast Passage.

The Town Council of Amsterdam purchased and outfitted two small ships, captained by Jan Rijp and Jacob van Heemskerk, to search for the elusive channel under the command of Barentsz. They set off on 10 May or 15 May, and on 9 June discovered Bear Island.De Veer, Gerrit. "The Three Voyages of William Barentsz to the Arctic Regions" (English trans. 1609).

They discovered Spitsbergen on 17 June, sighting its northwest coast. On 20 June they saw the entrance of a large bay, later called Raudfjorden. On 21 June they anchored between Cloven Cliff and Vogelsang, where they "set up a post with the arms of the Dutch upon it." On 25 June they entered Magdalenefjorden, which they named Tusk Bay, in light of the walrus tusks they found there. The following day, 26 June, they sailed into the northern entrance of Forlandsundet, which they simply called Keerwyck, but were forced to turn back because of a shoal. On 28 June they rounded the northern point of Prins Karls Forland, which they named Vogelhoek, on account of the large number of birds they saw there. They sailed south, passing Isfjorden and Bellsund, which were labelled on Barentsz's chart as Grooten Inwyck and Inwyck.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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