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Barentsz's Third Arctic Voyage: June 1597

Besides this, as the voyage they were about to undertake with two small vessels without any cover must expose them to imminent dangers, the master thought proper to write two letters, which were signed by the whole crew, and one placed in each of the vessels. In these was contained a recital of all they had suffered while waiting for the opening of the waters, and in the expectation that their vessel would be then disengaged from the ice; that having been deceived in this hope, and the ship always remaining fixed, as they saw the season would soon pass away, they had been obliged to abandon it, and to expose themselves to the dangers of a voyage which delivered them to the mercy of the winds and waves; that they had judged proper to make a double memoir in case the two vessels should be separated either by a storm, or any other fortune of the sea, or if one of the two should perish, that it might be learned from the other how the circumstances had come to pass, and in it be found the testimony for the confirmation of what should be related by those who might chance to remain.

Thus after having agreed in all arrangements, they drew to the sea the two vessels, and eleven sledges laden with provisions, wine, and merchandise, which they were careful to place in the best manner possible for their preservation: that is to say, six packets of fine woollen cloth; a chest full of linen cloth; two packets of velvet, two small boxes full of money; two casks of articles necessary for refitting, and clothes for the ship's company; thirteen casks of bread, one of cheese; a small cask of bacon, two of oil, six of wine, two of vinegar, and the clothes of the crews. All this appeared so much when taken out of the vessel, that it might have been said to be impossible to accommodate it in the little space of two such small vessels.

When the embarkment had taken place, they also carried on board two sick men, Barentsz and another, who were disposed in the two vessels, which the master caused to be moored close to one another. At this time also he had the two memoirs signed, of which mention has been made.

In fine, on the fourteenth of June 1597, at six in the morning, they weighed anchor, and set sail from Novaya Zemlia with a westerly wind: they arrived that day at the Cape of the Isles, where they still met with much ice, and they remained there inclosed which afflicted them in no small degree, under the apprehension they might continue there: four of them landed to reconnoitre the country, and they knocked down four birds from the rocks with stones.

On the fifteenth the ice being a little separated, they doubled Cape Flessingen, and came to Cape Desire. On the sixteenth they were at Orange Isle, where they also landed, and having made a fire of the wood they found there, they melted the snow and put the water into small casks for drink. Three of them passed on the ice to another island, where they took three birds; but returning, the master, who was one of the three, fell into a hole in the ice, where he was in danger of perishing, for there was at that part a very rapid current. They dressed the birds for the sick.

After they had again set sail, and were arrived at Icy Cape, the two vessels joined, and the master, who was not in the same with Barentsz, asked him how he found himself. Barentsz replied that he was better, and hoped he would still be able to travel before they arrived at their inn. He asked if they were at Icy Cape, and De Veer having answered him in the affirmative, he wished to be raised up in order that he might behold that cape once more, for which there was leisure enough, being again inclosed in the ice, and the vessels completely surrounded.

On the morning of the seventeenth the flakes of ice struck against these two little vessels in so dreadful a manner, that the hair of the crew stood on end: they believed themselves at their last hour, neither being able to stop the course of these floating masses, nor to prevent their being carried to leeward: they even found themselves all together so pressed between two banks of ice, that they took their last farewell of each other.

At length resuming courage, they endeavoured to come nearer to the firm ice, to fasten a cord and tow the vessels there, that they might be less exposed to the floating flakes. When they had approached a little, there was no person who would go to moor the cord; the danger was too great: yet a virtue must be made of necessity, and the strength of the balance prevail over the weak side. In this dilemma De Veer, who was the most nimble among them, undertook to carry the cord, and leaped from one flake of ice to the other, until, with the assistance of God, he happily arrived on the firm ice, and fastened the cord about an eminence of ice.

All the others then also left the vessels, and carried the sick in sheets on the ice, where they placed some other things under them in order that they might repose. They afterwards disembarked whatever remained on board, and dragging the vessels on the ice, they saw themselves delivered from the fear of a death which had appeared almost inevitable.

On the eighteenth they refitted their vessels which had been damaged from what they had suffered. They caulked the seams and covered them with tar-pawling having happily found some wood to make pitch. They afterwards landed to seek for eggs to give to the sick who most earnestly asked for some: but they were not able to find any, and only brought back four birds.

On the nineteenth they were more inclosed in the ice than before, and no more beheld any part open, so that they thought they had only prolonged their lives for some days, unless God should deliver them by some fresh miracle. On the twentieth at nine in the morning, the mate came on board the shallop, and said that one of the crew, called Nicolas Andrisz, appeared to be drawing near to his end. Barentsz told him that he firmly believed his was not far off. The crew who perceived at the same time that Barentsz was looking over a chart, which De Veer had drawn of the places they had seen during the voyage, had not the least idea of his being in that state. They remained seated and conversed together of many other matters, until Barentsz putting aside the chart, said to De Veer, give me some drink. When he had drunk he found himself very bad, his eyes rolled in his head, and he expired so suddenly that they had not time to call the master who was in the schuyt. Nicolas Andrisz also expired immediately after. But the death of Barentsz extremely afflicted the whole crew, for they possessed great confidence in him, and he was very experienced in the art of pilotage and navigation.

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* The survivors finally made it back to Amsterdam on November 1st, 1597.

* The problem with the sun rise in January vs. February may have been partly due to inconsistancies in the Julian and Gregorian calendars although I have not checked whether or not one or both were used on the voyage. I have also not checked as to whether the hut was precisely at 76 degrees.

* For more information on Barentsz see   Northern Lights Route