Little is known about the life of Willem Barentsz. He was a merchant and scientist and made an atlas of the Mediterranean. On June 3 1594 two ships set sail for an expedition, the first half of which was under his command. The aim of the expidition was to find a norteasterly passage, a sea route around the Asian north coast to the Far East. Hoping to sail around the islands Barentsz followed the coast of Nova Zembla but was blocked by the pack ice.
Cornelis Nay, who led the second half of the expidition, had more luck and managed to reach the Caric Sea through the Caric Gate. Both voyages were described in 1601 in the book “Voyagie, ofte schip-vaert van by Noorden om langs” by Jan Huygen van Linschoten who was part of the expedition as administrative officer.
Nay’s succes resulted in a second, larger expedition in 1595 led by Willem Barentz and Jacob van Heemskerck accompanied by Cornelis Nay and Jan Huygen van Linschoten