Jacob van Heemskerck (1567-1607), survivor and accomplished admiral

The navigator and admiral Jacob van Heemskerck was born in Amsterdam. He took part in two of Willem Barentz’s expeditions to the far north in search of a northeast passage to Asia. During the second expedition, their ship became trapped in the ice near Nova Zembla. Stranded, Barentz, Van Heemskerck and the rest of crew spent ten extremely cold months in ‘hibernation’ (1596/1597). Van Heemskerck survived the (mis)adventure and oversaw the survivors’ successful return. In the following years he commanded several voyages to the East Indies, setting up trading posts on various islands.

In 1607 Van Heemskerck was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea as the admiral of a war fleet that engaged the Spanish armada near Gibraltar. This ended in a resounding victory for the Dutch Republic. Van Heemskerck, however, took a shot in the leg from an enemy cannonball and died from his wounds shortly thereafter.



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