Get to know the Polar Explorers!
For some time to come, we will draw attention to some of the most famous polar explorers throughout history. Let’s start from the beginning, with the man who put Svalbard on the map – Willem Barentsz.
In 1596 two Dutch ships sailed north towards the North Pole, hoping to discover a shortcut to China and India. Instead they discovered Svalbard. The Dutch, including the pilot Willem Barentsz, were incredibly impressed by the landscape and named the land Spitsbergen. The search for a trade way north of Europe and Asia continued, but after a disagreement one of the ships returned home. When the expedition reached Novaya Zemlya the ship was trapped in the ice and the expedition members were forced to winter at the north coast of Novaya Zemlya. When the summer arrived, the ice had still not loosened its grip and they decided to make an attempt to reach the Russian mainland in small, open boats. Willem Barentsz died on this journey, probably weakened by the harsh winter, while the surviving expedition members managed to reach the Kola Peninsula after experiencing severe hardships.
For his accomplishments Willem Barentsz has had a whole sea named after him, the Barents Sea as well as the small coal mining community Barentsburg in Svalbard.