Willem Barents (d. 1597), Dutch navigator, was born about the middle of the 16th century. In 1594 he left Amsterdam with two ships to search for a north-east passage to eastern Asia. He reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya, and followed it northward, being finally forced to turn back when near its northern extremity. In the following year he commanded another expedition of seven ships, which made for the strait between the Asiatic coast and Vaygach Island, but was too late to find open water; while his third journey equally failed of its object and resulted in his death. On this occasion he had two ships, and on the outward journey sighted Bear Island and Spitsbergen, where the ships separated. Barents' vessel, after rounding the north of Novaya Zemlya, was beset by ice and he was compelled to winter in the north; and as his ship was not released early in 1597, his party left her in two open boats on the 13th of June and most of its members escaped. Barents himself, however, died on the 30th of June 1597. In 1871 the house in which he wintered was discovered, with many relics, which are preserved at the Hague, and in 1875 part of his journal was found.
See The Three Voyages of Barents, by Gerrit de Veer, translated by the Hakluyt Society (1876) from de Veer's text (Amsterdam, 1598).