Little is known of Willem Barents (Barentsz), including his exact date of birth (c.1500) and location. Scholars believe he was likely born either in the Dutch province North Holland or in Formerum at Terschelling, an island to the north of the Netherlands. Barents was educated as a steersman in Amsterdam. He was married with five children. In 1594, Barents left Amsterdam with two ships to search for the North East Passage to eastern Asia. He reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya and followed it northward before he was forced to turn back near its northern extremity. Barents's second expedition, during which he commanded a total of seven ships, took place in 1595 and traveled the strait between the Asiatic coast and Vaigach Island. In a third journey the following year, he traveled as far as Bear Island and Svalbard (or Spitsbergen). This also failed and resulted in his death on June 30,1597. The Barents Sea was named after him.

Louwrens Hacquebord

See also Barents Sea; North East Passage, Exploration of

Further Reading

Alexander, Philip F., The North-West and North-East passages

1576-1611, England: Cambridge University Press, 1915 Barentsz, Willem, Nieuwe beschryvinghe ende caert-boeck vande

Middellandtsche Zee, Amsterdam: Cornelius Claesz, 1595

Hacquebord, L. & P. van Leunen, 400 jaar Willem Barents,

Harlingen: Flevodruk BV, 1996 Jansma, T.S. & Olivier Brunel te Dordrecht, "De Noordoostelijke doorvaart en het Westeuropeesch-Russisch contact in de zestiende eeuw." Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 59 (1946): 337-362 Unwin, Raynar, A Winter Away From Home: William Barents and the Northeast Passage, London: Seafarer Books, and New York: Sheridan House, 1995

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