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Barentsz's Third Arctic Voyage: August - September 1596

While the crew were all engaged in performing this change, the great noise they made awoke a bear who was sleeping quite close. He immediately ran towards the vessel, and obliged all the labourers to quit their work in order to defend themselves. The bear received a musket ball in his body, and fled thus wounded to the other side of the island, where he placed himself on a bank of ice. They followed him, and seeing the shallop sailing towards him, he threw himself again into the water and endeavoured to get back to the island. They intercepted his passage, and wounded him on the head with a hatchet. They endeavoured to follow up the blow, but every time the hatchet was raised, he plunged into the water and avoided the blows with such dexterity that it was with great difficulty that he was killed.

On the sixteenth ten men in the yacht sailed towards Novaya Zemlia. They drew the schuyt on the highest part of the ice, which resembled a little mountain, and observed the altitude in order to know in which direction the main land lay. They found it to lie S.S.E., and afterwards still more to the S. This led them to think though very unseasonably, that the continent extended towards the south. At the same time they observed the water to the S.E. to be free, and imagined the success of their voyage was insured; so that they were extremely impatient to carry this pleasing intelligence to Barentsz.

On the eighteenth they got ready and wished to sail, but in vain, for having navigated with great difficulty, they were obliged to return to the place from which they departed.

On the nineteenth they doubled Cape Desire, and conceived fresh hopes of being able to sail. Nevertheless they got entangled again in the ice and were obliged to put back. On the twenty-first they entered Icy Harbour, and remained at anchor there during the night. On the following morning they left it, and moored their vessel to a bank of ice on which they mounted, and admired its figure as being of very singular form.

This bank was covered with earth at the top, and nearly forty eggs were found. The colour was not that of ice, but of a sky blue. Those who were there, reasoned much concerning this object. Some said it was in fact ice, while the others maintained that it was a frozen land. However this might be the bank was of very great height, being about eighteen fathoms under water, and ten above.

On the twenty-fifth of August, at three in the afternoon, the tide again began to force the ice along; and they imagined they could sail by the south of Novaya Zemlia towards the west of the Weigats. For as they had passed Novaya Zemlia, and not having found any passage open, they had no more hopes of being able to proceed farther, and prepared to return to Holland, when being arrived in the Bay of the Currents they were impeded by the ice, which was so thick that they were obliged to put back.

On the twenty-sixth having entered Icy Harbour, they remained there enclosed by the ice which floated from all parts, and rolled along with great force; so that they were not able to extricate themselves. They even had nearly lost three men, who were on the ice endeavouring to make an opening. But happily for these three men as the vessel fell back, and the ice was carried along by the same side the vessel was forced from, and that they were active and strong, each of them took so well his opportunity, that one caught hold of the tacks, the other the sheet, and the third the bight of the main brace which hung out of the back part of the ship; and thus they were all three most miraculously saved, so nearly had they been carried away by the ice.

In the evening of the same day they came to the west of Icy Harbour, where they were obliged to winter, and suffered a great deal, as much by cold, as the want of necessary articles, not to mention their vexation. On the twenty-seventh the ice floated about the vessel, and as the weather was fine, part of the crew landed, and had penetrated a considerable distance, whilst the wind, which veered to the S.E., and was sufficiently strong, detaching yet more ice, forced it towards the prow of the vessel, and occasioned it to pitch in such a manner and at the same time to fall astern that it seemed to touch the bottom with both its extremities.

In this imminent danger, the shallop was let down, in order to save themselves in case of necessity. They also hoisted a flag as a signal to those on shore to return on board; at the sight of which they made all haste to repair there, though they thought that the vessel had already started.

On the twenty-eighth the ice being separated a little, the ship was recovered in its station: but before this was quite accomplished, Barentsz went with the other pilot to visit the prow. While they were engaged, and on their knees and elbows in order to measure, the upper works of the vessel started, and in opening made so dreadful a cracking that they believed themselves lost. On the twenty-ninth when it was completely in its station, they endeavoured by means of iron crows and other instruments, to break and separate the ice which lay in heaps, but without success; so that they had no longer hopes of being able to disengage themselves and to have a free navigation.

On the thirtieth the flakes of ice began again to gather in heaps more and more, around the vessel, to which a strong wind contributed much, and the snow which fell in thick flakes, and increased the height of these dangerous ramparts which surrounded it. There was a dreadful cracking every where both within and around the ship, and they were in dread of seeing it burst and break to pieces.

As the ice was much more heaped up under the vessel on the side whence the current proceeded, than the other, it first lay very much inclined; but finally it gathered in heaps in the same manner on the other side, and by this means the vessel was set upright again, and lifted on these banks of ice, as if it had been intentionally raised with screws or other machines.

On the thirty-first more flakes of ice floated towards those at the head, and entirely raised up the prow; so that the stem was elevated four or five feet higher than the rest of the vessel, and the stern was sunk between the ice, as in a pit. They were in hopes this incident would preserve the rudder, and that the flakes of ice would no more strike against it; but this did not prevent its breaking as well as the tiller. Nevertheless if it was not able to save the rudder, there is every appearance that it contributed the most to preserve the body of the vessel. For if the stern frame had been exposed to the flakes of ice which incessantly floated, like the prow, they would have lifted up the whole vessel, and finally overset it, or even it might have filled the lower part with water, which was much feared.

Under this apprehension they had already got the shallop and yawl on the ice to retire to, and after having waited for four hours in anxious expectation of what might happen, the ice began to separate and was carried away by the current. They all regarded this new incident as a deliverance sent by God, and laboured with all their might to refit the rudder and tiller. It was afterwards judged proper to unhang it, in order that if they were again beset with the ice, it might run no more hazard.

On the first of September the flakes of ice began again to heap together, so that the whole body of the vessel was raised two feet, and nevertheless remained entire. In the afternoon they made the necessary preparations to draw the yawl and shallop to shore. On the second the vessel was still more raised by new flakes, which occasioned it to crack so dreadfully, and even to start in several places, that notwithstanding the bad weather they resolved to drag the yawl to land with thirteen casks of biscuits, and two small casks of wine.

On the third the vessel was beset with fresh flakes of ice, which united with those which already surrounded it, and held it so fast. Then the after-piece which was at the stern post separated, but the sheathing still remained. The cable which was anchored to the wind also broke, as well as a new cable which they had fastened to the ice: so that it was to be wondered at that the body of the vessel should remain entire, considering the violence, the quantity and the size of the flakes of ice, some of which were seen floating as high as the salt mountains seen in Spain, and were only at musket shot distance from the vessel.

On the fifth after supper, the banks of ice pressed so against the vessel, that it remained quite inclined on one side, and was greatly injured, though always without separating. Nevertheless as they imagined it could not resist much longer, they carried to shore an old fore-sail, powder, lead, firelocks, muskets, and other arms, in order to make a tent near the place where was the yawl. They also carried more biscuit, and wine, with carpenters' instruments, to refit the shallop if necessary. Besides there was so little water about the vessel, that they were not able at one time to draw up a full bucket.

On the seventh, five sailors having landed, two of them returned on board, and the three others walked for two leagues, into the country, where they saw a river of fresh water, and a quantity of wood which had floated on its banks. They also saw traces of rein-deer and elks, at least as well as they could judge from the marks of their feet, and the different size of these vestiges, such as they appeared imprinted on the ground.

On the night of the ninth two bears came close to the vessel, which they put to flight by the noise of trumpets and guns which they fired, although none of them took effect on account of the fog. On the eleventh being calm weather, eight sailors well armed went on shore, in order to see if the three others who had already been there, had well observed every thing, and if they were not mistaken in the report they had made concerning the wood on the banks of the river. For after having been locked in the ice at different times, and extricated themselves from it, they found themselves this time inclosed in such a manner, that they well perceived it being the season of autumn and winter approaching, there was no more room to hope they should be able to disengage themselves. Thus preparing to pass the winter, they had held counsel all together as to what was to be done, in waiting what it would please God to order concerning them.

It was therefore resolved to fortify themselves against the cold , and the attacks of wild beasts, and to build a hut for this purpose. They had a favourable opportunity for executing their design. On the shore were found even whole trees with the roots, which had been brought, either from Tartary, or Moscovy, for there were none on the spot; so that they found the three first sailors had made a faithful report. This beginning of good fortune induced them to hope that heaven would grant them hereafter greater favours, and that since it furnished them with the means of building a retreat, to warm themselves and to prevent their perishing by cold, which would have been inevitable without this assistance, it would also facilitate to them the means of returning to their native country.

On the fifteenth of the same month of September, in the morning, the man who stood centinel, perceived three bears, one of which remained behind a bank of ice, while the others advanced towards the vessel. As the crew were preparing to fire, one of the bears was about to put his head into a tub where some meat lay in soak at a considerable distance from the vessel, because there was no water in the part where it lay. At the same instant the bear received a musket ball in his head, which laid him dead. The other bear remained as if thunderstruck: he attentively regarded his companion stretched on the place, and seeing him make no motion, he smelt to him, and at length went away. They followed him with their eyes, and as they perceived him return, and raise himself on his hind legs in order to cast himself on the sailors, they fired and shot him in the belly, which caused him to fall again on his feet, and then he fled making a great howling. They opened the dead bear, and having taken out the entrails, they placed him on his four legs, in order to see if he would be sufficiently frozen to carry him to Holland, if they had the good fortune to extricate the vessel.

The work of the building of a hut was at length begun, by preparing a sledge to convey the wood. At this time the sea was all frozen to the thickness of two fingers. On the sixteenth they brought four rafters from a league distant, by walking always on the ice or the snow. During that night it still froze of the thickness of two fingers.

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