Seamen Wintering In Spitzbergen

On the 30th of August 1633, the Dutch fleet sailed from North-Bay, in

Spitzbergen, leaving seven men behind, who had agreed to winter there.

Immediately, on departure of the vessels, they began to collect a

sufficient quantity of provisions to serve their necessities until

their comrades should return in the subsequent year. Therefore, at

different times, they hunted rein-deer with success, and caught many

sea-fowl; and also occasionally got herbs, which proved very salutary.

Excursions both by sea and land were frequently made when the weather

would permit; and they endeavored to kill whales and narwhals in the

different bays on the east coast of Spitzbergen.

The extreme cold of the climate was announced by the disappearance of

all the feathered tribe on the third of October, and from that time it

gradually augmented. On the 13th their casks of beer were frozen three

inches thick, and very soon afterwards, though standing within eight

feet of the fire, they froze from top to bottom. The seamen had broke

the ice on the sea, and disposed a net for catching fish below it; but

the rigour of the weather constantly increasing, the ice formed a foot

thick at the surface in the space of two hours.

From the excessive cold, they remained almost constantly in bed, and,

notwithstanding they had both a grate and a stove, they were

sometimes obliged to rise and take violent exercise to keep themselves

in heat.

Beautiful phenomena appeared in the sky during winter, consisting of

the Aurora Borealis, of surprising splendour and magnitude, and other

meteors seeming to arise from the icy mountains.

On the third of March the mariners had an encounter with a monstrous

bear, in which one of them very nearly perished. The animal became

furious from its wounds; leaping against a seaman, about to pierce it

with his lance, it threw him down, and, but for the opportune

interposition of another, would have torn him to pieces.

At length, after suffering many hardships and privations the mariners

were gladdened with the sight of a boat rowing into the bay, on the

27th of May 1634, announcing the return of a Dutch Greenlandman, which

anchored there the same evening.

The Dutch, encouraged by the safety of this party, proposed that other

seven people, provided with all necessaries, should pass the following

winter in their place; and, accordingly, Andrew Johnson, Cornelius

Thysse, Jerome Carcoen, Tiebke Jellis, Nicholas Florison, Adrian

Johnson, and Fettje Otters, offered to remain.

The fleet, therefore, sailed for Holland on the 11th of September

1634, leaving these men behind. Numbers of whales were in sight of

Spitzbergen on the same day, which the people made an unsuccessful

attempt to catch.

Towards the end of November, scurvy beginning to appear among them,

they carefully sought for green herbs, but in vain; nor were they more

fortunate in the pursuit of bears and foxes for fresh provisions.

However, they drank some potions and took other antidotes against the

disease, and then set traps for foxes.

A bear being discovered on the 24th of November, three of the people

eagerly proceeded to attack it, for their necessities were daily

becoming greater. The animal, rising to receive them on its hind legs,

was shot through the body, whereupon it began to bleed and roar most

hideously, and fiercely bit a halbert. But, likely to be overpowered,

it took to flight, and was anxiously pursued by the people a long way,

carrying lanthorns, though unsuccessfully; and they were all much

dispirited from the disappointment of fresh provision, which they so

much required.

East Spitzbergen--_page 186_.]

On the 14th of January, Adrian Johnson died. The whole of the rest

were extremely ill. Fettje Otters died next day, and also Cornelius

Thysse on the 17th, a man in whom his comrades rested their chief hope

next to God.

Notwithstanding the weakness of the survivors, who could scarce

support themselves on their legs, they contrived to make three coffins

for the deceased, and put their bodies into them.

In the beginning of February they had the good fortune to catch a fox,

an incident which afforded them much satisfaction, but at that time

disease had gone too far to admit their deriving material benefit from

the flesh. Many bears, even six or ten together were seen; but the

people had not strength to manage their guns, nor, had it been

otherwise, were they able to pursue them. Now they were seized with

excruciating pains about the loins and belly, which were aggravated by

cold. One spit blood, and another was afflicted with a bloody flux;

yet Jerome Carcoen could still bring in fuel to keep up the fires.

The sun had disappeared on the 20th of October, nor was he seen again

until the 24th of February, when the mariners were so weak as to be

constantly confined to their cabins. Two days after, they ceased to be

able to write, at that time expressing themselves in a journal thus:

"Four of us who still survive, lie flat on the floor of our hut. We

think we could still eat, were there only one among us able to get

fuel, but none can move for pain; our time is spent in constant

prayer, that God, in his mercy, would deliver us from this misery; we

are ready whenever he pleases to call us. Assuredly we cannot long

survive without food or firing; we are unable to assist each other in

our mutual afflictions, and each must bear his own burden."

The seamen of the Dutch fleet arriving at Spitzbergen, in 1635,

hastened to inquire after the fate of their comrades; and having found

their hut all closed around as a protection against wild beasts, they

broke open the back door. A man then entering, ran up stairs, where he

discovered part of a dead dog on the floor, laid there to dry, and

quickly descending, trod on the carcass of another dog also dead.

Thence passing towards the front door, he stumbled in the dark over

several dead bodies, which, after the door was opened, were seen lying

together. Three were in coffins; Nicholas Florison and another, each

in a cabin; and the other two on some sails covering the floor, lying

with their knees drawn up to their chins. Therefore the whole of these

unfortunate people had perished.

Coffins were prepared for the four bodies wanting them, and all were

buried under the snow, until the ground became more penetrable, when

they were deposited in the earth beside each other, and stones laid on

their graves, to preserve them from the ravenous beasts of prey.

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