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Bitter cold, marauding polar bears, no daylight or fresh food: the winter endured on Novaya Zemlya is one of the most oft-told and extraordinary stories in Dutch history. Less well-known is the reason why Willem Barentsz, Jacob van Heemskerck and their crew were forced to spend the winter of 1596–97 above the Arctic Circle. They were endeavouring to become the first Dutch fleet to reach far-off China and Japan – an attempt that failed miserably.
Nor do many people know that the Behouden Huys, the hut in which the crew members barely survived the winter, was found almost three centuries later. It still contained items that the men had abandoned when they left: weapons, tools, books, trade goods, navigational instruments and more. The objects, which were remarkably well preserved in the freezing conditions, are now in the Rijksmuseum.
In this edition in the Rijksmuseum Series Jan de Hond and Tristan Mostert weave the discoveries in the Behouden Huys into the story of a desperate winter ordeal on Novaya Zemlya.