Science - April 7, 2005

Barents’ arctic winter was no accident

The Behouden Huys, the log cabin built by the explorer Willem Barents, was not constructed haphazardly from the remains of his shipwreck, as was previously believed.

This is one of the new pieces of information that Dr JaapJan Zeeberg, a climate researcher at RIVO, includes in his book on the motivations of sixteenth-century Dutch explorers on the arctic islands of Novaya Zemlya. ‘From the symmetry of the wooden hut, we can conclude that the ship’s carpenter had built it just as he had the boat, according to the golden section ,’ tells Zeeberg. ‘I think that Barents had already prepared the design, and that the stay on Novaya Zemlya was not as much of a coincidence as is often thought.’ To write the book the researcher made a number of expeditions together with experts from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to study the remains of the winter camp on Novaya Zemlya.

Zeeberg’s book, entitled Into the Ice Sea, will be published on 15 April and is intended to provide an international readership with more information on this unique expedition in the history of Dutch arctic exploration. ‘Thanks to the small Ice Age in the Middle Ages the material has remained very well preserved. The crew’s logbook also provides historical context that you do not often find in the world of archaeology.’ / GvM

Into the Ice Sea. Barents’ wintering on Novaya Zemlya. JaapJan Zeeberg. Rozenberg Publishers, 2005, 320 pp, ISBN 90 5170 787 8. Price 29.50 euros.

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