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Jacob Van Heemskerck

Date: c 1610
Dimensions:
Image: 153 x 120 mm
Sheet: 201 x 133 mm
Overall: 201 x 133 mm, 0.001 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00018951
Place Manufactured:Amsterdam

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    Description
    Jacob van Heemskerck was a sixteenth century Dutch explorer and, later, the admiral commanding the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Gibraltar (1607). His early fame arose from his attempts to discover an Arctic passage from Europe to the East Indies (the fabled 'Northern Sea Route'). In late-1596 his ship became trapped in the ice, while the men onboard were forced to spend the winter of 1596-7 on one of the islands of Novaya Zemlya in a hut made of driftwood. Later van Heemskerck severed as a vice admiral, escorting Dutch merchant shipping on voyages to China and the East Indies. On the 25 April, 1607, during the Eighty Years' War, he commanded a Dutch fleet that successfully managed to surprise and engage a Spanish fleet that was anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar. Although it would be a decisive Dutch victory, van Heemskerck was killed during the battle.
    SignificanceThis engraving of Jacob van Heemskerck is significant in that it provides a visual record of an individual whose service to the Netherlands during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as both an explorer and a naval commander have led him to becoming something of a national hero. A number of vessels in the Royal Netherlands Navy have been named after van Heemskerck, as well as a Boeing 737 of the Dutch airline KLM.
    HistoryJacob van Heemskerck (sometimes called 'Van Heemskerk') was born on 13 March, 1567 in Amsterdam and died on 25 April, 1607 in the Bay of Gibraltar. He was a Dutch explorer and, later, the admiral commanding the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Gibraltar.

    His early fame arose from his attempts to discover an Arctic passage from Europe to the East Indies (the fabled 'Northern Sea Route'). On 10 May, 1596, he sailed from Amsterdam as the commander of two ships bound for the Arctic. He was accompanied by fellow explorer William Barents (also known as 'Barentsz').

    Sailing northwards in order to avoid the masses of ice (and any land it might be concealing), van Heemskerck discovered Bear Island (the southernmost island of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago) in the Barents Sea on 9 June, 1596. The island was named after a polar bear that was said to have been sighted swimming near the island. The island was considered terra nullius until the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 placed it under Norwegian sovereignty.

    Continuing on the same course van Heemskerck and his party sighted a mountainous snow-covered land and were soon afterwards stopped by the polar pack ice. This important discovery was named Spitsbergen (now known as Svalbard), and was believed (incorrectly) to be a part of Greenland. Arriving back on Bear Island on the 1st of July van Heemskerck and Barents decided to proceed eastwards, intending to pass round the northern extreme of Novaya Zemlya; an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean to the north of Russia and the extreme northeast of Europe. On 26 August they reached Ice Haven, after rounding the northern extremity of Novaya Zemlya.

    It was at this point that van Heemskerck's ship (having parted company with the other ship at Bear Island) became trapped in the ice, while the men onboard were forced to spend the winter of 1596-7 on the island itself, living in a hut made of driftwood. In doing so they became the first Europeans to survive a winter in the Arctic. In June, 1597 the decision was made to abandon the still-icebound ship by setting sail in its two open boats. Although van Heemskerck was able to lead most of the crew to safety, Barents died on the journey (on 20 June).

    Van Heemskerk later severed as a vice admiral, escorting Dutch merchant shipping on voyages to China and the East Indies. In 1598, he accompanied Jacob van Neck, a commercial representative of the Verre Company, on a trade mission to the East Indies. After van Neck returned home, van Heemskerck took over the fleet and established trade relations with the rulers of Ternate, Banda, and Amboina. In 1603 he captured the Portuguese treasure ship Santa Catarina in the Straits of Malacca.

    On the 25 April, 1607, during the Eighty Years' War, a Dutch fleet commanded by van Heemskerck, of twenty six warships and four cargo ships surprised and engaged a Spanish fleet of twenty one warships (including ten large galleons) that were anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar. What has subsequently been called the 'Battle of Gibraltar' lasted four hours during which time the entire Spanish fleet was destroyed. Heemskerck ordered several of his ships to remain in entrance to the bay so that no Spanish ships could escape. He then commanded the attacking ships to focus on the Spanish flagship.

    Van Heemskerck was killed during the first approach on the Spanish flagship as a cannon ball severed his leg. The Dutch effectively then doubled up the galleons (in a move that, almost two centuries later, would be copied by Admiral Nelson during the Battle of the Nile in 1798) and a few of the galleons caught fire. One Spanish ship exploded due to a shot into the powder magazine. The Dutch eventually captured the Spanish flagship, but allowed it go adrift.

    Following the destruction of the Spanish ships, the Dutch deployed boats and killed hundreds of swimming Spanish sailors. Casualties were recorded as 100 Dutch dead and 60 wounded. The Spanish, meanwhile, lost their entire fleet, meaning twenty one ships together with 4000 men, including the fleet's commander, Don Juan Álvarez de Ávila.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Jacobvs Heemskerkivs. Archithalassvs. Amstelodamensis

    Primary title: Jacob Van Heemskerck

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