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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 54, Real Red Clouds our Ship and How We came Close in Danger with Walruses. From the "Little Voyages"

De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 54, Real Red Clouds our Ship and How We came Close in Danger with Walruses. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 54, Real Red Clouds our Ship and How We came Close in Danger with Walruses. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate LIV, Ware Ubcotrafantung unser Schiff und wie wir ben nabe mit den Walreussen in ge fahr fommen
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


In this illustration we see the crew arriving at Cross Island on July 19, 1597 during their return journey. They had been en route for more than a month already, and had suffered significant hard- ships during that month. Seven men went ashore in a sloop. They gathered hundreds of eggs. But more importantly: to the west they saw open water, a sight that boosted the morale of the men, who were overjoyed at the salvation from God. The seven returned to the two boats in good spirits. There they told the others the good news. They boiled the eggs and ate heartily.

As the sailors depart from Nova Zembla, walruses leap into the water and swim alongside their boats.*

Title: Real (red clouds) our ship and how we came close in danger with walruses. 

Text: This is a sketch of the right side of our boats which we constructed out of the ship and escort vessels thus we dared to sail with 380 miles on the water with some danger. And when we now seemed safe from the ice we came to another misfortune because when we sailed by the Admiralitet island we saw on a big ice floe almost 200 walruses of which we also made a report. But when we sailed roughly towards them and several while sailing by swam away insolently they all took to the sea approaching our boats with a loud sound which seemed to me as if they wanted to devour all of us they could have without a doubt struck with their great strong teeth (because they are tremendous animals) our boat and scared us enough but God the almighty gave his mercy so that we sailed away with good wind and again escaped another danger.


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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