Willem Barents (1550? -- June 20, 1597, Dutch name Barentsz) was a Dutch navigator and explorer, leader of early expeditions in far northern waters.
In 1594 he left Amsterdam with two ships to search for the Northeast 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. His third journey also failed and resulted in his death. On this occasion he had two ships, and on the outward journey sighted Bear Island and Svalbard (also known as Spitsbergen), where the ships separated. Barents' vessel, after rounding the north of Novaya Zemlya, was trapped in the ice and he was compelled to winter in the north. Since his ship was not released early in 1597, his party left her in two open boats on June 13, 1597 and most of its members escaped. Barents himself, however, died on June 30, 1597.
In 1871 the house in which he wintered was discovered undisturbed, with many relics, which are preserved at The Hague, and in 1875 part of his journal was found.