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A Book of Discovery by M. B. Synge



NOVA ZEMBLA AND THE ARCTIC REGIONS. From a map in De Bry's _Grands Voyages_, 1598.]

"The sea-horse is a wonderful strong monster of the sea," they brought back word, "much bigger than an ox, having a skin like a seal, with very short hair, mouthed like a lion; it hath four feet, but no ears." The little party of Dutchmen advanced boldly with hatchets and pikes to kill a few of these monsters to take home, but it was harder work than they thought. The wind suddenly rose, too, and rent the ice into great pieces, so they had to content themselves by getting a few of their ivory teeth, which they reported to be half an ell long. With these and other treasures Barents was now forced to return from these high latitudes, and he sailed safely into the Texel after three and a half months' absence.

His reports of Nova Zembla encouraged the merchants of Amsterdam to persevere in their search for the kingdoms of Cathay and China by the north-east, and a second expedition was fitted out under Barents the following year; but it started too late to accomplish much, and we must turn to the third expedition for the discovery which has for ever made famous the name of William Barents. It was yet early in the May of 1596 when he sailed from Amsterdam with two ships for the third and last time, bound once more for the frozen northern seas. By 1st June he had reached a region where there was no night, and a few days later a strange

sight startled the whole crew, "for on each side of the sun there was another sun and two rainbows more, the one compassing round about the suns and the other right through the great circle," and they found they were "under 71 degrees of the height of the Pole."

Sighting the North Cape of Lapland, they held on a north-westerly course till on 9th June they came upon a little island which they named Bear Island. Here they nearly met their end, for, having ascended a steep snow mountain on the island to look around them, they found it too slippery to descend. "We thought we should all have broken our necks, it was so slippery, but we sat up on the snow and slid down, which was very dangerous for us, and break both our arms and legs for that at the foot of the hill there were many rocks." Barents himself seems to have sat in the boat and watched them with intense anxiety. They were once more amid ice and Polar bears. In hazy weather they made their way north till on the 19th they saw land, and the "land was very great." They thought it was Greenland, but it was really Spitzbergen, of which he was thus the discoverer.

Many things astonished the navigators here. Although they were in such high latitudes, they saw grass and leafy trees and such animals as bucks and harts, while several degrees to the south "there groweth neither leaves nor grass nor any beasts that eat grass or leaves, but only such beasts as eat flesh, as bears and foxes."

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