… they thought, and so Willem Barentsz and his 16-headed crew set off in order to find a Northeast Passage to the Indies in May 1596. They discovered Bear Island in June, but icebergs and floes in the Arctic Ocean made it impossible for them to continue their journey. The explorers were forced to spend almost a year on Nova Zembla, where they built a shelter with their ship’s lumber. One of the men kept a diary in which he wrote about dealing with extreme cold and their experiences, including hunting foxes and even fighting with polar bears for their survival.
After almost a year they could finally free their ships from the ice and began their return journey. Only twelve crewmen returned to Amsterdam – Willem Barentsz died at sea only seven days after starting out.
Though unsuccessful in finding a northern route, at least he has a sea named after him – and he still is a celebrated hero in Dutch history.