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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onHisto­ry → Wil­lem Barent­sz

Willem Barentsz

History of Spitsbergen

Wil­lem Barent­sz: dis­co­ve­rer of Spits­ber­gen.

Willem Barentsz

The honour of having ‘offi­ci­al­ly’ dis­co­ver­ed Sval­bard goes wit­hout con­tra­dic­tion to the Dutch­mach Wil­lem Barent­sz, who sai­led from Hol­land in 1596, to find a rou­te to Chi­na. He never got to Chi­na, but to Bjørnøya, the name of which (‘Bear Island’) goes back to Barent­sz’ visit, as they soon met a polar bear the­re and final­ly mana­ged to kill it after quite some trou­ble­so­me fight­ing. Barent­sz then cal­led the island ‘Beer Eyland’. Soon the­re­af­ter, Barent­sz rea­ched Spits­ber­gen some­whe­re in the nor­thwest. The first sigh­ted land could have been Fug­le­hu­ken, the nor­t­hern tip of Prins Karls For­land. Seve­ral places at the west coast were visi­ted, and becau­se of the alpi­ne cha­rac­ter of the island, Barent­sz cal­led the island ‘Spits­ber­gen’ (Poin­ted Moun­ta­ins).

They then went fur­ther east and had to win­ter at the north coast of Nova­ya Zem­lya. During this win­tering, seve­ral men died, among­st them Barent­sz hims­elf. The others made it back to Hol­land. Remains of the win­tering hut on Nova­ya Zem­lya have been found, but the­re are no archeo­lo­gi­cal traces dating back to Barent­sz’ visit to Spits­ber­gen.

The hut (1), which was built for the win­tering on Nova­ya Zem­lya, as drawn by de Veer.

Barents Hut Novaya Zemlya

The hut, which was built for the win­tering on Nova­ya Zem­lya, as drawn by de Veer. Barent­sz died short­ly after depar­tu­re in ear­ly sum­mer 1597 from scur­vy.

Barents Hut Novaya Zemlya

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last modification: 2019-03-02 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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