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Barentsz's Third Arctic Voyage: June - August 1596

"It is besides by the same principle that this land, of which to the present time, that is to say, when this relation was published, only the coasts are known, appears overspread with high mountains, whole summits are perpetually covered with snow; and that in the plains that intersect them neither trees, bushes, nor fruits are seen; of verdure there is nothing but a short and thick moss, of a yellowish colour, through which shoot little blue flowers. Nevertheless some mariners assert that they have observed a green plant like hay.

"The animals which are seen there are white bears, larger than oxen, and stags, or rein-deer: the latter feed on the moss, and during the space of a month which some vessels remained off these shore, they were observed to become so fat, that the flesh was excellent.

"They have very crooked horns, and are rather smaller than stags: they are unaccustomed to the sight of men, as may be concluded from what has been said, yet are not startled at seeing them. Sometimes they have been wounded with musquets, and have run towards those who fired, as if to seek succor or refuge in their arms, and struck them so violently as to occasion their falling to the ground.

"On these coast are also seen white and grey foxes, and even black. The English have found horns, which the connoisseurs pretend to belong to the unicorn. Nevertheless those which have been brought to Holland have not decided to what species they belong.

"A great quantity of whales, of different species, resort to the mouths of the harbours, many of which are eighty feet long, and have so much fat that from it much oil is derived. Some have no fins on the back; but at the mouth have pendants, resembling great beards, sometimes a fathom or more long. Six hundred pieces are drawn from the same mouth: they are situated above, and ranged like the teeth of a comb, in the place where other fish have their teeth, and there are only those above. The front and back ones are very small, so that in general they do not reckon on a greater number than four hundred. It is the only considerable profit which can be derived from this coast.

"On each side of the back part of the head the whales have large fins, where they are more easily struck with the harpoon and more dangerously wounded. When they are wounded, and the blood runs from the head, they force the water and blood through the vent which they have above the head as high as the mast: when they have exhausted their strength by struggling the boats approach, and throw darts on their head and in the aperture.

"The whales have a thick black skin, covered with black cuticle, and smooth as satin: their food is a small fish, called by the French a sea-flea, and which his not so large as the samphire plant: they swim with the mouth open, and swallow this little fish while swimming, shutting their mouth as soon as it enters.

"There are also white whales, which are of little value. Whitings are also found but in small quantity. There are many aquatic birds, and particularly sea-gulls, which gather on dead whales; two kinds of divers; loms, which properly are a species of parrot, geese, mallards, ducks which lay very large eggs, and a great quantity of wild geese.

"A little farther north are found sea-cows, which may be named sea-elephants, for they much resemble the elephant by the size of the body, and by their teeth: as to their skin, though it may be very thick, and that some have been seen at Amsterdam weighing four hundred pounds, it is however not esteemed, because it is unequal and foul. They have much lard, which may be clarified so as to afford oil. When they see another cow of their species which is dead, they assemble in great numbers, and placing themselves upon it they heat it, and occasion it to corrupt.

"At five leagues still farther north, where are channels of fresh water, there are seen marine dogs, of the same nature as those which are seen in these provinces, that is to say, the United Provinces.

"This is all the knowledge relative to the state of this country which was possessed at the time of the publication of the present relation."

On the twenty-third of June a part of the crew landed, with the intention of observing the variation of the compass: while they were thus occupied a white bear swam towards the vessel, and would have entered if it had not been perceived. They fired some shot, when the bear returned to the island in which were the other part of the sailors. Those who remained on board seeing him return sailed immediately towards land, and shouted with all their strength to warn their companions, who hearing these cries, imagined that the vessel had struck on some rock. The bear itself was so frightened that it took another route leading from the island, at which those on board were much rejoiced, for their companions had no arms.

With respect to the variation of the compass, they found it to differ 160. On the twenty-fourth they sailed and approached very near to shore, where having landed, they found two teeth of the sea-cow, each weighing six pounds, and also another small one. On the twenty-fifth they sailed along the coast in 790 lat. and having discovered a large gulf they entered it, and advanced about ten leagues; but were obliged to tack about quickly in order to depart, on account of contrary winds.

On the twenty-eighth they doubled a cape lying on the western coast, where was so great a quantity of birds, that they cast themselves in great flights against the sails of the vessel.

On the twenty-ninth they were obliged to bear off from the land on account of the ice, and they arrived in lat. 760 50'.

On the first of July, they were again in sight of the Island of Bears, when John Cornelisz with the other officers of his vessel went on board that of William Barentsz, where not being able to agree as to the route they should take, it was finally settled that each should steer the course he judged proper. In consequence Cornelisz, following his idea, returned again to latitude 800, thinking he should be able to pass by the east of the lands which are there, and he then steered towards the north.

Barentsz on the contrary pursued a southern direction on account of the ice. On the eleventh he imagined himself by calculation to lie N. and S. with Candinous, or Candnoes, the eastern point of the White Sea, which remained to the S. and he bore to the S. and S. and by E. in latitude 720, and conceived himself to be near the land of Sir Hugh Willoughby. On the seventeenth he arrived in latitude 740 40'. At noon he observed Novaya Zemlia, towards the bay of Loms. On the eighteenth he doubled the cape of Admiralty Isle, and on the nineteenth saw the Isle of Crosses, under which he anchored on the twentieth, the ice preventing him from advancing farther.

Eight of the seaman sailed towards land in the shallop, there they went to visit one of the crosses, and placed themselves at the foot in order to repose, before visiting the other. These two crosses have given name to the island. Proceeding to visit the other cross they perceived two bears at the foot, at which they were very much alarmed, not having any arms. The bears raised themselves quite upright against the cross in order that they might the better see the persons coming towards them, for they can smell at a far greater distance than they can see, and afterwards ran to meet them.

The sailors fled towards their boat, looking behind from time to time to see if they were followed by these ferocious beasts. But the master stopped them, and threatened to plunge the boat hook he held in his hand into the body of the first man who fled; because, he said, it would be better to keep all together than to separate, in order to frighten the bears by their shouts. They therefore walked an ordinary pace towards the boat, where they escaped with much joy.

On the twenty-first of July, they were in latitude 760 15', and the variation of the compass was 260 or a little more. On the sixth of August, they passed by Cape Nassau, and on the seventh were under Cape Troost, where Barentsz had long wished to be. In the evening the weather became so hazy that it was necessary to moor the ship to a bank of ice, of thirty-six fathoms depth in the water, and about sixteen fathoms above, so that it was altogether fifty-two fathoms in thickness.

On the ninth of August, the vessel still being moored to the bank of ice, the master who was walking on deck, heard the breathing of an animal, and immediately beheld a bear attempting to mount the ship.

He immediately cried out all hands on deck! and all the crew having ascended, they saw the bear with his claws against the side of the vessel, and endeavouring to enter. They began shouting all together as loud as they could, at which the beast frightened retired a little farther off. But returning immediately from behind the bank of ice to which the vessel was moored, and walking fiercely towards them, still endeavoured to throw himself within. They had had time to stretch the sail of the shallop over the upper works of the vessel, and a part of the crew was near the windlass with four firelocks. The bear was wounded and fled, without their being able to see on which side, on account of the snow which fell very thick. It is very probable he went behind one of the mountains of ice which had gathered on the banks.

On the tenth of August, the ice having separated, the flakes began to float, and it was then observed that the large bank of ice to which the vessel had been moored reached to the bottom, because all the others passing along, struck against this bank without moving it. They were therefore afraid of being enclosed by the ice, and endeavoured to leave that part of the sea; although in passing they found the water already frozen, the vessel occasioning the ice to crack for a considerable distance around it. They finally arrived at another bank, where they presently cast a stream anchor and remained moored there till night.

After supper, during the first watch, the ice began to break with so dreadful a noise as not to be described. The head of the vessel lay in the current which broke up the ice, so that they were obliged to let out more cable in order to be clear of it. More than four hundred large banks of ice were counted, lying ten fathoms under the water, and apparently of the height of two fathoms above.

They afterwards made the vessel fast to another bank, six long fathoms under water, and they moored it by the stern. When they were settled there, they perceived at a little distance another bank, the top of which ended in a point like the point of a steeple, and it reached to the bottom of the sea. They advanced towards it, and found it to be twenty fathoms under water and nearly twelve above.

On the eleventh of August they sailed again towards another bank, being eighteen fathoms deep, and ten fathoms above the water.

On the twelfth they advanced towards the coast, that the vessel might not be carried away by the ice, and that at all events it might be in greater security; for the larger banks of ice could not approach it, being only in four or five fathoms of water. In that place also was also a great fall of water which descended from the mountains. The vessel was again moored to a bank of ice, and this place they named the Little Cape of the Ice.

On the thirteenth of the same month of August, in the morning they saw a bear coming from the eastern point towards the vessel. A sailor broke one of his legs by a musket ball.

Notwithstanding which he went back and climbed up a mountain. Several of the crew left the ship, and having pursued him, killed and flayed him.

On the fifteenth Barentsz steered along the coast of Orange Isle, where his vessel was entangled in the ice, near a great bank, in danger of shipwreck. But he extricated himself by approaching the land, though with extreme difficulty; and when he had moored himself, the wind veered to the S.E.: which occasioned him to change his anchorage.

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