by Nikolai VEKHOV, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), D. S. Likhachev Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage, RF Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications
Up until the late 16th century civilized Europeans knew but little about the northern edge of their continent and its aboriginals. What they knew came largely from eyewitness accounts of travelers about the nomadic tribes of Lapps (Laplanders) and Scandinavian Saamis. The tidings brought in by two Englishmen, Hugo Willoughby and Steven Barrow, who returned from one of the first arctic voyages in the 1550s, attracted little, if any, notice. One couldn't care less about what they had to tell about the Peninsula Kanin Nos (Cape), the islands of Vaigach and Novaya Zemlya, and the tribes of idolaters, the "reindeer people"...
Only after three voyages of Dutch merchants in the Arctic Ocean (in 1594, 1595, 1595/96) led by Willem Barents* the world heard about Nordic tribes who wore their deer-skin apparel in summer and in winter, and hunted fur-bearing animals, polar bears and seals; who harpooned walruses and whales; and who would eat raw venison and fish. Thanks to these voyages the archipelagos Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya, the islands of Vaigach and Medvezhy (Bear) as well as the seas washing these insular lands were mapped.
* See: V. Starkov, "Who Discovered Spitsbergen?", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1994. - Ed.Articles in this rubric reflect the authors' opinion. - Ed.
The Dutch seafarers sailed through the native parts of the exotic northern folk (Russian industrialists and Pomors, or coast-dwellers of Archangel, called them Samoyeds): in the lower reaches of the Pechora, on the shore of the seaway Yugorsky Shar, on Dolgoi and other islands. Gerrit de Veer, the chronicler of those odysseys, described his impressions in the travelogue Sea Voyages of Barents (1598) supplying it with many vivid pictures of nomadic hunters.
The belt of tundra plains and open w ... Read more