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Barentsz's Third Arctic Voyage: September - November 1596

On the seventeenth thirteen men departed to seek for wood, ten of which conveyed it, while the other three cut it. On the twenty-first the frost increased to such a degree, that it was necessary to transport the kitchen articles to the lower part of the hold, every thing freezing in the cook room.

On the twenty-third the carpenter died, and on the twenty-fourth was buried in a cleft of a mountain, near a water fall, for the earth was so frozen that it was impossible to dig a grave. On the twenty-fifth the rafters were fixed, and the building began to assume its form. On the twenty-sixth the wind blew from the west and the sea was free, but the vessel not being disengaged, the crew only beheld this mitigation of the weather with vexation.

The whole of the crew did not consist at that time of more than sixteen men, of whom some one was frequently sick. On the twenty-seventh it froze so hard, that one of the crew being at work putting a nail into his mouth, as is the custom of workmen, the skin came away when he drew it out, and the blood followed. The cold latterly became so intense, that it was only an extreme desire of preserving life, which could have enabled them to support the hardship of their labour.

On the thirtieth the wind was E. and E.S.E., and it snowed so hard on the preceding night, and all this day, that the height of the snow prevented their going on quest of wood. They made a great fire along the building to thaw the earth, and raise it around like a rampart in order to form a better inclosure, but in vain, for the earth was frozen so hard and to such a depth that it was impossible to soften it, and if they had been determined to accomplish it in all events, it would have consumed too great a quantity of wood.

On the second of October the hut was in an advanced state, and near it was raised a May-pole of frozen snow. On the fifth the sea was observed to be open as far as the eye could extend, notwithstanding which the ice about the vessel did not melt; so that it seemed as if they had built a wall on purpose to raise it two or three feet, and it was found that the water in this part was frozen to the bottom, that is to say, to the depth of three fathoms and a half. On the same day the front cabin was cut up, and the planks were used to cover the hut, in form of a roof with two slopings; which was nearly completed on the same day. On the seventh the aftermost cabin was cut up, to make a fence around the hut.

The wind, which was violent during the night of the seventh, continued all the following day, and brought so much snow, that it seemed very probable that those who should be exposed to the air, would have been suffocated. Besides it would have been totally impossible to walk as far as the length of a ship, and to suffer the rigour of the cold, and the inconvenience of the air, during that time.

On the fifteenth the air became a little milder, so that they were enabled to leave the ship. One of the crew being on shore met with a bear, which he did not perceive till he was near to him. He turned back, and fled with all haste towards the vessel. The bear pursued him, and arriving at the spot where they had placed the other bear which had been killed a short time before to freeze, and was completely covered with snow, excepting one of his paws that was raised in the air, he stopped there; which gave the sailor an opportunity of reaching the vessel and saving his life.

As he was very much frightened on entering the ship, he could utter nothing but a bear, a bear. The other sailors having ascended above, in order to fire on the bear, could scarcely perceive any thing, on account of the smoke in the vessel, while they were shut up in it; and which they could never have believed possible to support, if it had been to gain all the wealth of the world, if they had not been influenced to preserve their lives, which they would soon have lost, by the incredible severity of the cold, and the inconvenience of the snow. The bear did not wait till their eyes were free, and retired without being seen.

On the eleventh the wine and the other provisions were brought to land, and on the twelfth half of the crew slept in the hut they had built, where they suffered extreme cold, because as yet they had no beds, and little covering. Nor could they make any fire, the chimney not being yet built, and the smoke on this account insupportable.

On the thirteenth three sailors went to the ship, and placed some beer on a sledge, in order to carry it away; but as they were setting off, there arose so violent a wind, there was so great a storm, and the cold so intense, that they were not only obliged to re-enter the vessel, but even to leave their beer without, on the sledge. The following day they found the bottom of a cask of strong beer of Dantzic * completely cracked by the strength of the frost; and the beer instead of running out was frozen and stuck to the bottom as if it had been strong glue. The cask was carried into the hut and placed upright. They thawed the beer, for there was very little in the middle of the cask which was not frozen; but was not congealed, having lost the taste of beer, because the strength had been drawn away, was no longer fit to drink; and that which they thawed had only the taste of water. They thought of mixing them together again, which however did not restore the original taste or virtue.

On the night of the sixteenth a bear attempted to enter the vessel; but hearing the voices of the sailors towards break of day, he retired. On the eighteenth after taking the biscuit from the yawl which they had dragged to land, they also took out the wine, which was not yet frozen, though the frost had already continued with great severity for six weeks.

On the nineteenth another bear attempted to get into the vessel, where only two men and a boy remained who were very much alarmed. The two men ran to the bottom of the hold, and the boy climbed to the top of the fore shrouds. In the meantime some sailors advancing from the hut, the bear went directly up to them as soon as he perceived them, but fled at the first shot they fired at him.

On the twentieth they returned to the vessel to carry away all the beer: they found some casks which the frost had split, and several iron hoops broken on those in which was the strong beer. On the twenty-fourth all the remainder of the crew, to the number of eight, retired to the house, and they were obliged to convey on a sledge a ninth who was sick. They also dragged with incredible labour, the shallop of their vessel, and they placed it with the keel upwards, in order to make use of it when opportunity should offer.

In fine seeing that the vessel was frozen in such a manner, that they could have no hopes of seeing it soon disengaged, they carried back the stream anchor on board, lest it should be lost under the snow, and that they might use it in the following summer, hoping to find then some favourable occasion for returning to their country.

In the mean time the sun, the sight of which was the only benefit and pleasure which remained, beginning to abandon them, they made all possible diligence, to convey on their sledges the remainder of the victuals in the vessel, and the rigging necessary to equip the shallop, in order to carry them to their hut. On the twenty-fifth of the same month of October, while occupied in this work, the master who happened to raise his eyes, saw three bears behind the vessel, who were advancing towards the sailors. He cried out loudly in order to frighten them. On their side the sailors threw their straps on the ground, to put themselves in a state of defence. Luckily two halberts were found on the sledge: the master took one, and Gerard de Veer the other. The others ran towards the vessel, but one of them fell into a chasm in the ice; an accident which made all the rest shudder thinking the bears would inevitably devour him. Instead of which these ferocious beasts pursued those who fled towards the vessel: during which time the master with De Veer and the man who had fallen into the chasm, went round the vessel, and entered on the opposite side to the bears.

These savage animals seeing that they had entered, advanced furiously towards the vessel where the crew, having no other arms but the two halberts on which they could not depend, endeavoured to divert their attention by throwing pieces of wood at their head, and other things after which they ran each time a piece was thrown, in the same manner as a dog runs after a stone. One of the sailors was sent into the cook-room to strike a fire, and another to seek for some pikes. The more the sailor hastened, the less was he able to kindle any fire, so that there was no opportunity of using their firelocks. In the mean time the bears always returned to the assault with equal fury. A halbert was thrown which having struck the largest directly on the mouth, he began to retreat, and the others who were considerably smaller, followed him slowly at a distance, and left the crew to the liberty of dragging their sledge to their hut.

On the twenty-sixth, the greater part of the water was free close to the land, but the ice always continued about the vessel. On the twenty-seventh, a white fox was killed, which they roasted; it very much resembled the rabbit in taste. The same day they were employed in mending, and fixing the clock. They also prepared a lamp to burn in the night time, and for this purpose they used the fat of a bear which they melted. On the twenty-ninth they carried on sledges a quantity of the herbs and other things left by the sea on the shore, which they placed about the sail that inclosed the hut, that the cold might penetrate less through the planks, which were not let into each other, the bad weather not having permitted them to do otherwise.

On the first of November, in the dusk of the evening they saw the moon rise in the east, and the sun yet rose sufficiently high on the horizon to be perceived. On the second they saw the sun rise in the S.S.E., and set near the S.S.W.; but the whole of his disk did not appear above the horizon; he was only seen on the horizon itself and a part of it remained concealed. On the same day they killed a fox with a blow of a hatchet, which they roasted.

On the third the sun rose in the S. and by E., a little nearer the S. than the S.E., and set in the S. and by W., also a little nearer the S., and the top alone of its disk appeared above the horizon, although the situation where they took altitude was as high as the top of the vessel, which lay close. On the fourth it was no longer observed, although the weather was very serene.

At this time the surgeon took a cask or an empty pipe, and made a bath of it, where they bathed one after another: from which they experienced much benefit. On the same day they took a fox, this animal appearing at the time while the bears were retired as well as the sun, and did not again appear till the return of that star.

As the sun had quitted the horizon, the moon had come to take its place, appearing all day and night without setting, when it was in its highest quarter, The sixth, was so dull a day that it could not be distinguished from the night, the more as the clock which would have assisted them, had stopped; so that not conceiving it to be day, all the people remained for a long time a-bed without rising but on necessary occasions, and when they rose, they were not able to discern if the light they saw was that of the day or the moon. They even had much dispute concerning it, but finally found that it was day and even the middle of the day.

On the eighth they distributed the remainder of the bread, and the portions were fixed at four pounds and five ounces for eight days, instead as formerly of the same portion only lasting for five or six days. As to the fish and meat they imagined there was no necessity of distributing them; but for the drink, they were in want of it, and what beer remained possessed no strength or taste. On the eleventh they fixed a net made of rope yarn on a hoop, to catch foxes: so that when a fox was underneath, he remained there caught as in a trap, and they could draw the trap and the fox into the hut. The same day they took a fox.

* Pinkerton's Footnote: "A strong and medicinal beer, made with the berries of sweet briar."

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