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Monday, 24 November 2008

Social Studies: Willem Barentsz




Willem Barentsz (left) with Jacob van Heemskerk (right).

Willem Barentsz was a explorer and cartographer born in Terschelling, The Netherlands circa 1550. He made three voyages in search of the Northeast Passage over Russia. Since the sun was up 24 hours a day he thought it would have melted any icebergs or other sea ice.

His first voyage was aboard the ship Mercury, as part of a group of three ships sent out in separate directions to try and enter the Kara Sea, with the hopes of finding the Northeast Passage above Siberia. They came across a polar bear which they shot and tried to take back to Holland. It was put on a leash and brought onto the ship but it attacked and has to be killed. They named the place Bear Island. The crew came across a herd of approximately 200 walruses in the Orange Island, and tried to kill them with hatchets and pikes. Finding the task more difficult than they imagined, they left with only a few ivory tusks.

Although they did not reach their ultimate goal, the trip was considered a success.

On his second voyage Prince Maurice of Orange named him Chief Pilot and Conductor of a new expedition, which was accompanied by six ships loaded with merchant wares that the Dutch
hoped to trade with China. The party came across approximately 20 Samoyed "wild men" with whom they were able to speak, due to a crew member speaking their language. Eventually, the expedition turned back upon discovering that unexpected weather had left the Kara sea frozen. This expedition was largely considered to be a failure.

In 1596, disappointed by the failure of previous expeditions, the States-General announced they would no longer subsidize similar voyages - but instead offered a high reward for anybody who successfully navigated the Northeast Passage. The Town Council of Amsterdam purchased and outfitted two small ships, captained by Jan Rijb and Jacob van Heemskerk, to search for the elusive channel under the command of Barents. They got stranded in winter ice. The 16-man crew was forced to spend the winter on the ice, along with their young cabin boy. After a failed attempt to melt the permafrost, the crew used lumber from their ship to build a 7.8x5.5 meter lodge.

The crew took to sleeping with warmed stones and cannonballs. In addition, they used the merchant fabrics aboard the ship to make additional blankets and clothing.

When June arrived, and the ice had still not loosened its grip on the ship, the scruvy-ridden survivors took two small boats out into the sea on June 13.

Barentsz died while studying charts on May 20, 1597 . It is not known whether Barents was buried on the northern island of Novaya Zemlya, or at sea.

Souces: Wikipedia

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I am a grade nine student living in Mexico. This is my home school education blog. I post the things I learned during the week on this blog. I hope you can learn things from this too.


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