De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 42, How Our Ship Got Stuck in the Ice and Three of Ours Almost Died. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 42, How Our Ship Got Stuck in the Ice and Three of Ours Almost Died. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLII, Wie unser Schiff im Enz steden blieb und ben nabe dren der unferen daruber
From Part III of Johann Theodor de Bry (1561-1623) and Johann Isreal de Bry's (1565-1609) Orientalische Indien (“Little Voyages”), Dritter Theil indiae orientalis...Frankfurt: 1599 (first edition)
Engraving with original, early 17th century hand color heightened with gold on laid paper; paper dimensions: approximately: 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Printed by Matthias Becker
van Groesen 52ensions: approximately: 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Printed by Matthias Becker
van Groesen 52


This illustration shows the point at which Barents' attempt two years earlier had been bro- ken off, near the Orange Islands on the northern side of Novaya Zemlya. Having arrived at this point, the crew was discouraged, they found no opening through the pack ice and Barents considered giving up once again. At the same time the crew had to leave the ship to break through the ice with saws and axes. Here we see three men carried away from the boat by an ice floe which they had hacked off. Seemingly miraculously the ice floe is driven back towards the boat and the men are hastily hoisted back on board with ropes.

The treacherous waters surrounding Nova Zembla were the downfall of Barentsz’ expedition.

Title: How our ship got stuck in the ice and three of ours almost died. 

Text: Now that we know that we didn't think of the unpredictable ice before our journey we were willing to sail back to Holland but then all the more we sailed into ice so that we couldn't go forward or backward thus two deckhands stepped on the ice to break a passage the ice started breaking so that they were in mortal danger because the ship broke the ice apart and pushed the ice behind them but fortunately their ice floe shifted toward the ship so that each one of them grabbed something on the ship on which they climbed back.


Documenting Gerrit de Veer's Journal of Three Dutch voyages to reach the East Indies by the North (1594- 1597).


In 1596 helmsman Willem Barents undertook a third attempt to reach Asia from the Netherlands by sailing via the North Pole. There was reportedly a large open sea beyond the island of Novaya Zemlya. Once you passed this, and headed back to the south, you would presumably emerge near Japan and China.

Barents' first attempt involved navigating along the northern side of Novaya Zemlya, the second along the southern side of that island, via Vaygach. Both attempts had to be abandoned because of the advancing ice.

While seven ships full of merchandise had sailed during the second journey, now for the third attempt, the expedition was more prudent: the main concern was exploring the sea route, trade was  secondary. Only two  ships, both from Amsterdam, sailed on May 18, 1596, this time once again via the northern side of Novaya Zemlya.

Willem Barents was helmsman on the ship captained by 29-year-old Jacob  van  Heemskerck. Captain of the second ship was merchant Jan Cornelisz Rijp. Barents and Rijp soon clashed over the route to follow. The northern route championed by Rijp, which had also been indicated by cartographer Plancius, won out. Although they discovered two islands, Bear Island and Spitsbergen, the first leg was a failure. They came up against an impenetrable layer of ice. Barents wanted to fol- low the northeasterly route. Rijp wasn't interested and went his own way. When he once again hit pack ice, he turned homeward. Barents and Heemskerck headed towards the northern point of Novaya Zemlya. The expedition was to be a disaster, but thanks to the spectacular overwintering of Willem Barents and his crew, under abominable conditions, this journey took on epic proportions in the illustrious history of exploration.

Not long after the return of the survivors in 1598, the story of the adventure was published, penned by Gerrit de Veer, who had been on both the second and third journey with Barents.*


*Research provided by Martine Gosselink, head of the History department at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands.

**Translated from original German by Karl Nesseler.

Description compiled by Erik Brockett who is pleased to provide additional information relating to this or other examples of the work of Johann Theodor de Bry available at Arader Galleries. He can be contacted at