Friday, 27 January 2017

From the Congo to Nova Zembla. A small step

I referred to this beautiful book last Sunday. A year's worth of a German geographical magazine.

Not only is is 145 years old, it has the most beautiful maps. The publisher, Justus Perthes from the German city of Gotha, had a golden reputation for its map making. I also have an atlas of the classical world from these guys. Stunning work.

Not only does it have a piece on Livingstone's research into the origins of the Nile, it also has a lot of stuff on a polar exhibition to Nova Zembla. And this is where a legendary chapter in Dutch history comes to pass. Because what the polar expedition found was an old hut, known in Dutch as Het Behouden Huys, in which a group of Dutch sailors survived an arctic winter.

Here's the 1872 map, showing the location of the hut near the lowest cape on the eastern coast.

In 1596 an expedition led by captains Barentsz (yes, the sea is named after him) and Heemskerck tried to find a way to the East Indies by the north cape. It was hoped that in this way, the Spanish and Portuguese, who claimed the Indian Ocean and the Pacific as their monopolies, could be avoided.

The expedition failed, getting stuck in the polar ice. But the account of their survival during the polar winter, including fights with bears, was widely read and still forms one of the seminal elements of Dutch pride in their Golden Age. The magazine included a couple of classic prints out of the account.

With the north route proven to be unusable, Dutch traders forced more resources into breaking into the Indian Ocean, which lead to the foundation of the Dutch East India Company and a colonial empire that lasted for almost 350 years.


  1. Replies
    1. It was a gift by someone who is very glad this is now in good hands

    2. It was a gift by someone who is very glad this is now in good hands


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