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1871 - Elling Carlsen, Norwegian Captain
First Visit to Barents’ Winter Quarters
Nowaja Semlja


[Barents’ expedition spent the winter 1596/97 on the coast of Nowaja Semlja; 12 of the crew of 17 returned by boat to Europe.]
Let us give here an extract or two from Carlsen’s own account of the discoveries. Under the date of Saturday, September 9th, his log says:
At noon we observed the latitude 76° 12’ [76°18’ by observation of Gardiner at the second visit to the site], the distance from the shore guessed. The house on shore was 16 metres long by 10 metres broad, and the for-wood planks of which it was composed were 1 ½ inches thick by from 14 to 16 inches broad; as far as we could make out, they were nailed together. The first things we saw amongst the ruins of the house were two ship’s cooking pans of copper, a crowbar or bar of iron, a gun barrel, an alarum, a clock, a chest, in which was found several files and other instruments, many engravings, a flute, and also a few articles of dress. There were also two other chests, but they were empty, only filled up with ice, and there was an iron frame over the fireplace with shifting bar.

Another visit on the 12th yielded several things – viz. candlesticks, tankards, with lid of zinc, a sword, a halberd-head, two books, several navigation instruments, an iron chest already quite rusted, and respecting the occasion of the final visit, on the 14th the log continues:
Four o’clock in the morning we went on shore further to investigate the wintering-place. On digging we found several objects, such as drumsticks, a hilt of a sword, and spears. Altogether it seemed that the people had been equipped in a war-like manner, but nothing was found which could indicate the presence of human remains. On the beach we found pieces of wood which had formerly belonged to some part of a ship, for which reason I believe that a vessel has been wrecked here, the crew of which built the house with the material from the wreck, and afterwards betook themselves to the boats. Five sailor’s trunks were still in the house, which might also have been used as five berths, at least so far as we can make out. We now set to work to build a cairn, and erected a wooden pole twenty feet high. We placed in the cairn a description of what we had found, shut up in a double tin case, after which we returned on board, and went under sail.

The Norwegian captain evidently was not aware that he had visited a place of such historic interest for a neighbouring nation, nor that the fruits of his discovery would be so anxiously sought after as they finally were.

The Barents Relics: Recovered in the Summer of 1876 by Charles L.W. Gardiner, Esq. and Presented to the Dutch Government, Described and Explained by J.K.J. de Jonge
London 1877

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