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God and before the world, to penetrate by the north to China and Japan, as ordered by our instructions, until we have seen that it does not please God that we should continue our voyage, and that it is necessary we should desist. We therefore have resolved to make our route back to Holland with all diligence.” (Signed by the Admiral, and others of the council.)
The States declined to contribute to another expedition after this failure; but they proclaimed a reward to any who might seek for, and be fortunate enough to discover, the passage ; and some public-spirited officials of Amsterdam accordingly equipped two vessels, to which Barentsz was again appointed pilot. They set sail on the 18th May, and sighted Shetland on the 22nd. Here the commanders, Ian Cornelisz Rijp, and Barentsz, differed as to the course to be pursued. Rijp was for keeping to the northward of Nova Zembla, Barentsz for attempting the passage by the old straits. Rijp would not give in, and "Barentsz, rather than part company, followed bim. On the 9th June, in latitude 74° 30', they made an island, which they named after the only living creature observed on it, Bear Island. On the 19th, they discovered a much larger island in 80° 11'. “ This land, the most northern which to this time had been discovered in the world, has nevertheless verdure and herbage. The animals seen here are white bears, some larger than oxen; rein deer, who feed on moss, and become so fat, that their flesh is excellent eating; here are also foxes,
and some black. It is named by the Hollanders Spilberg or Spilbergen, signifying sharp pointed mountains.”6 At this point the commanders again differed,
6 “Rec. des Voyages de la Comp." vol. i. p. 93, et seq.
and being unable to agree, determined on pursuing each his own course. On the 17th July, Barentsz made the coast of Nova Zembla, pushed his way through numerous obstacles along the west coast, and, on the 26th August, doubled Cape Nassau, the north-east extremity of the island. Here they became involved in foys and floating ice, which at length closed in upon them, with such violence as to lift the ship entirely out of the water, in an almost perpendicular position, filling them with the greatest apprehension. To extricate the ship from her perilous position was now a hopeless task; and here, in the latitude of 76° north, were these seventeen unfortunate creatures, doomed to endure all the horrors of the dreary Arctic winter, doubly fearful, because unknown.
Like gallant men, however, they threw no chance away, but took every precaution within their means, working cheerfully to build a hut, which was at length, after great labour, finished on the 2nd October. Meantime, each day the cold became more intense. If one of the workmen for an instant inadvertently put a nail into his mouth, as is a common habit, it would bring away the skin on its removal, and cause the blood to flow. Their fine Dantzic beer froze so hard as to break the casks, and all the virtue was concentrated in a very small compass in the middle; the other part of the solid block had merely the taste of bad water. Did they hang up their clothes to dry, the side farthest from the fire was hard frozen. “ It seemed as if the fire had lost all power of veying heat; their stockings were burned before the feet felt any warmth, and this burning was announced by smell rather than by feeling. Yet, in the very midst of these sufferings, remembering that the 6th January was the Feast of the Kings,
they besought the master that they might be allowed to celebrate that great Dutch festival.”7
On the 4th November the sun disappeared, and with it also a very disagreeable visitor, who occasionally put them in great alarm—the huge white bear. They had, however, the pale light of the moon, and the little arctic fox, whose flesh they found very palatable, and a very agreeable addition to their slender larder.
On the 24th January, they were surprised by the re-appearance of the northern limb of the sun, after a darkness of eighty-one days. Barentsz held out that it was quite impossible that this could take place for fifteen days to come; but the joyful intelligence was confirmed on the 27th ;-he was not aware of the great refractory power of the northern atmosphere. The cold, however, continued unabated
until April, when it became milder, and they eagerly began to form plans to escape from their prison. The ship was immoveable, and the crew therefore earnestly besought to be allowed to fit up the two boats, which Barentsz at length granted.
After much labour, they succeeded in digging them from out the snow; and by the 11th June, they were tolerably prepared for their perilous voyage. On the morning of the 14th, they all embarked, and bade farewell to the desolate shores on which they had passed those eight terrible months. They stood to the north, and on the 16th were off the northern extremity of Nova Zembla, where they sustained a great loss : Barentsz, who had been long ailing, now approached his end. He was observed, on the morning of the 20th, intently studying a chart of the places they had visited, and shortly afterwards he desired that he might be lifted up in the boat. His wishes were complied with; and while still gazing on the terrible scene of his shipwrecked hopes, the spirit of their estimable commander passed away.
7 “Polar Seas,” pp. 157-158.
After encountering innumerable privations, the wretched survivors had the good fortune to meet with some Russian loddies, and obtained from them a supply of provisions. They also learnt the gratifying intelligence that three Dutch ships were then lying at Kola; and their joy may be imagined, when, on the 25th August, they arrived there, and found their former companion, Jan Cornelisz Rijp, commander of one of the vessels.
He had been unsuccessful in his northern attempt, and had returned to Holland, and was now on his return from a trading voyage. Of the seventeen men cast on Nova Zembla, but twelve returned to their native land.
The north-western attempts were resumed in England by the “Wor" Fellowship of the Mrchñts of London, trading into the East Indies.” The attention of the Fellowship having been called to the subject, by “a lre written by one George Waymouth, a navigat'," it was submitted to “A general Court, holden the 7th of August, 1601," when “question beinge made for the sendinge out of the north-west passage, whether itt shalbe a voyage to seeke itt, or not, beinge put handes, itt was consented vnto for a vyage.' Accordingly, two pinnaces, the Discovery, of fifty, and the Godspeed, of forty tons, were fitted out, after a great deal of altercation with the Muscovy Company, on whose rights and privileges they were said to be intruding, until it was decided otherwise by “ learned councell,” and the command was given to Waymouth, who bound himself down to, ist. “ Sayle towardes ffretod Davis, and soe forward by the nor-west to the kingdomes of Cataya or China, or the backe side of America." 2nd. “ Not to returne of one whole year att the least.” 3rd.
To keep “a journall of their p'ceedings, to be deliuered to the Companie by the Capt., wthin 10 daies after retourne.” 4th. “ Not to discouer his p'ceedings in the voyadge otherwyse then to the Gou'nor and Company. Lastly, in case of success, 5th. “500 li. graunted to the said Capt., after proofe he hath discou'ed the said passadge;" but should the attempt fail, 6th, “The said Captn. doth disable him selfe from all demands for his salary and painesteakinge if he discou' not.”
Everything being at length fixed, Waymouth sailed from the Thames on the 2nd May, 1602, and on the 1st June he reached the north latitude of 59° 30'. On the 18th he made Greenland, and two days after Cape Desolation, with its black water “ thicke as puddle.” Still keeping a westerly course, on the 28th he made Cape Warwick. He now became involved in thick fogs; and, in addition, continued stormy weather, considerably daunted the spirit of the crew. Liable every moment to be crushed to atoms, and affrighted by the “ noyse of a great quantity of ice, very loathsome to be heard,” the sailors became discontented, and secret conferences took place, at which it was at length determined “to bear up the helme for England.” They carried out their mutinous intentions on the 19th July, when Waymouth was asleep in his cabin, and the ship in the latitude of 68° 53'.8 When Waymouth came forth from his cabin and demanded of them, “Who bare up the helme?" they answered, “ ONE AND ALL.” The seamen gave as their reasons for this daring step, the impossi
8 “North-West Fox,” p. 49, says, “This cannot be.”