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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 52, How We Almost Suffered Shipwreck and with Great Danger Had to Step on the Ice. From the "Little Voyages"

De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 52, How We Almost Suffered Shipwreck and with Great Danger Had to Step on the Ice. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 52, How We Almost Suffered Shipwreck and with Great Danger Had to Step on the Ice. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate LII, Wie wir bennahe einen Schiffbruch erlitten...
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


June 17. A few days after the Dutch departed, they once again went ashore. The two boats were almost lost to the terrific force of the ice floes. The men had endured a hellish sea journey, many a quick prayer was undoubtedly uttered. The wind made it difficult to reach the shore. But they finally succeeded. The remaining provisions and household effects were taken off the ship. This included six small barrels of beer, fine woolen cloths, velvet, cases of money, thirteen barrels of bread, a barrel of sweet cheese, two barrels of oil and other items.

Conspicuous in the picture are the two sick men, helmsman Willem Barents and Claes Andriesz, visible to the right and in the middle, being hauled ashore on stretchers.

Willem Barents was not to recover from his illness. He died on June 20, 1597, to the great sadness of his crew. Crew member Claes Andriesz also succumbed that day, shortly after Barents.*

Title: How we almost suffered shipwreck and with great danger had to step on the ice. 

Text: After three days of our journey and several unnecessary dockings at one point did we suffer emergency because the ice broke fiercely and started to encompass the boats we thought we were going to die which could have happened without a doubt under mortal danger but with God's help we were able to jump from one ice floe to the other until we reached the solid ice we pulled the boats up with the rope when we reached the solid ice with the boats the wares and other goods as well as our two sick men we softly laid on the ice repaired the ships and thus again with God's help we passed.**


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

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