Willem Schouten bigraphy, stories - Dutch explorer

Willem Schouten : biography

c. 1567 - 1625

Willem Cornelisz Schouten (c. 1567–1625) was a Dutch navigator for the Dutch East India Company. He was the first to sail the Cape Horn route to the Pacific Ocean.


First publications

Schouten described his travels in the Journal, published in a Dutch edition at Amsterdam in 1618 and soon translated into several other languages.

  • Dutch edition: Journal Ofte Beschryvinghe van de wonderlicke reyse, ghaedaen door Willem Cornelisz Schouten van Hoorn, inde Jaren 1615, 1616, en 1617. Hoe hy bezuyden de Strate van Magekkanes een nieuwe Passagie tot inde groote Zuyzee onteckt en voort den gheheelen Aerdkloot angheseylt, heeft. Wat Eylanden, vreemde volcken en wonderlicke avontueren hem ontmoet zijn. Amsterdam: Willem Jansz. 1618.
  • French edition: Journal ou Description du marveilleux voyage de Guilliaume Schouten ... Amsterdam: Willem Jansz. 1618.
  • English edition: THE RELATION OF a Wonderfull Voiage made by Willem Cornelison Schouten of Horne. Shewing how South from the Straights of Magelan in Terra Delfuego: he found and discovered a newe passage through the great South Seaes, and that way sayled round about the world. London: Imprinted by T.D. for Nathanaell Newbery. 1619.
  • German edition: Journal, oder Beschreibung der wunderbaren Reise W. Schouten auss Hollandt, im Jahr 1615-17 ... Frankfurt am Main. 1619.
  • Latin edition: Novi Freti, a parte meridionali freti Magellanici in Magnum Mare Australe Detectio. Diarium vel descriptio laboriosissimi et molestissimi itineris, facti a Guilielmo Cornelii Schoutenio annis 1615-17... Amsterdam: Janson. 1619.

Among historians (A. L. Rowse included) there is no consensus about the authorship of this Journal. Schouten has got the credit for it, and thus the voyage has come down to us under his name. The Dutch, French, German and Latin texts all have nine engraved maps and plates which are not present in the English version, THE RELATION.


Willem Cornelisz Schouten was born in c. 1567 in Hoorn, Holland, Seventeen Provinces.

In 1615 Willem Cornelisz Schouten and Jacob le Maire sailed from Texel in the Netherlands, in command of an expedition sponsored by Isaac Le Maire and his Australische Compagnie in equal shares with Schouten. A main purpose of the voyage was to search for Terra Australis, which eluded them. A further objective was to evade the trade restrictions of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) by finding a new route to the Pacific and the Spice Islands. In 1616 Schouten rounded Cape Horn, which he named for his birthplace, the Dutch city of Hoorn. He followed the north coasts of New Ireland and New Guinea and visited adjacent islands, including what became known as the Schouten Islands.

Although he had opened an unknown route, the VOC claimed infringement of its monopoly of trade to the Spice Islands. Schouten was arrested (and later released) and his ship confiscated in Java. On his return he would sail again for the VOC, and on one of these trips he died off the coast of Madagascar in 1625.

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