De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 44, How the Ice Lifted our Ship Up in the Front. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 44, How the Ice Lifted our Ship Up in the Front. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLIV, Wie das ensz unser Schiff vornen in die hohe auffhube
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 52


August 27, 1596. We see how the ice floes drifting around the ship have propped the ship up, as it were. The heavy winds pushed the ice up and the ship became stuck "with its ass driven in the ground". Willem Barents and his mate, who were measuring in the front of the ship, were put in danger because of the sudden upward force. The men on board rushed above deck, fearing that the ship would sink. "It screeches, creaks and cracks" and after a few days it was clear that the ship had to be abandoned. "It seemed as if it were splitting into a hundred pieces." The men had to leave the ship, with its three Amsterdam flags still flying proudly.

On the right we see the men hoisting the sloop from the ship. The barrels of goods are first salvaged from the ship.*

Title: How the ice lifted our ship up in the front. 

Text: After we were surrounded by the ice we were hoping that the ice would break apart and build an open passage but the longer we sailed the more the ship was surrounded by ice and the ice accumulated heavily in the front so that the ship was lifted four of five Werckschuh (one Werckschuh = 11.7 inches) and it looked like it the stern would run aground/ with such a loud crash that we thought we would perish: thus we stripped our big sail set foot on land dragged our boats on the ice and several barrels of bread so if the situation got worse/ we would survive.**


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