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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 53, How We Because of the Ways of the Ice Pulled the Ship Back on the Ice and What Else Occurred

De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 53, How We Because of the Ways of the Ice Pulled the Ship Back on the Ice and What Else Occurred

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 53, How We Because of the Ways of the Ice Pulled the Ship Back on the Ice and What Else Occurred. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate LIII, Wie wir von wegen defs Enseb unser Schiff widerumb auff das Enfs zogen und was fich alda zugetragen hat
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 28. The expedition started its return journey. The crew was spared no hardship. After a long, exhausting sea journey, the weather continued to cause difficulty. They were plagued by ice storms and dangerous drifting ice floes. Moreover all the men were exhausted from rowing and were still mourning the loss of helmsman Willem Barents who had succumbed to exhaustion and sickness.

They headed back ashore to rest because the boats were too small to sleep in at night. They hauled their goods onto the land (seen in the background on the left) in order to be able to sleep in the boats. At night one man kept watch. However they did not find any rest on land: three polar bears approached the camp. In the picture we see that one polar bear has been shot and the second will soon meet the same fate.*

Title: How we because of the ways of the ice pulled the ship back on the ice and what else occurred. 

Text: Thus we yet again were beset with ice unfortunately had to drag the boats back on the ice and wait for the opportunity as we stretched the sails over the ships to rest beneath positioned a man on the sentinel who at midnight saw three bears prowling along therefore immediately shouted at us three bears three bears when we heard that we were with our rifles like cannon fodder ready in the ships shooting in their direction so that one was left behind which when the other two witnessed caused them to flee came however back soon after dragged the dead corpse along their way for a bit and devoured thereof but we shot at them and chased them away thereof.


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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