1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Dutch Exploration. Barents.

Geography
(Part 24)



Dutch Exploration. Barents.

The Dutch emulated the English in the Arctic seas during this period. Their merchants opened a trade with Kola and Archangel as early as 1578, but the difficulty of penetrating into the Sea of Kara led them to try the possibility of finding a passage round the northern end of Novaya Zemlya. The credit of the conception of this voyage is due to the great cosmographer Peter Plancius, and the merchants of Amsterdam adopted the idea, and dispatched a vessel of 100 tons called the "Mercurius," under the command of William Barents. He sailed from the Texel in June 4, 1594, and sighted Novaya Zemlya on the 4th of July. Sailing northwards along the coast he rounded Cape Nassan and reached the edge of the ice. For many days he perseveringly sought for a passage through it. In his second voyage he merely went to the entrance of the Sea of Kara. But his third voyage was the most important. Heemskerk was the commander, Barents was pilot, and the mate, Gerrit de Veer, was the historian of the voyage. They sailed form Amsterdam in May 13, 1596. On June 19, Spitzbergen was discovered, and the whole western coast and part of the northern examined. The record of the subsequent proceedings of Barents and his crew, of their famous voyage round the north-western end of Novaya Zemlya and of their terrible sufferings in the first Arctic winter ever faced by Europeans, is deeply interesting as it is told in the simple narrative of Gerrit de Veer. Barents had long been ill, and when they set sail from their dismal winter harbour on June 14, 1597, in open boats, he was too weak to stand, and was carried from the house. He died on the 19th and found a grave in the midst of his discoveries.






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