A long-ago Dutch whaler in Greenland

I’m pleased to present the fascinating work of my colleague, Dr. Hester Jiskoot, a glaciologist in the Department of Geography at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Hester studies glaciers, specifically ice and natural phenomena that involve ice.

She also has a passion for Arctic history and some years ago discovered the logbook of the Den Dam, published in 1711. The Den Dam was a Dutch whaler, part of a fleet of no less than 173 whalers off East Greenland that year. The painting featured at left is by Hendrik Van Minderhout, a Dutch artist from the 17th century. The 18th century engraving  below shows Dutch whalers hunting bowhead whales near the Beerenberg volcano on Jan Mayen island. At that time whaling was a significant part of the Dutch economy; resource extraction in the Arctic has a long history.

Dutch whaler

Besides telling a fascinating story of peril on the sea, the logbook of the Den Dam has scientific value; it includes weather and sea ice records that can tell us a lot about that region in the early 18th century. Hester is studying these now and has plotted whale and polar sightings as the Den Dam drifted in the ice off East Greenland.


Hester is working on a book featuring the Den Dam; it will contain scientific information and analyses but will be aimed at the general reader. It’s sure to be a compelling read for anyone with an interest in the Arctic.

Meanwhile click here to watch a presentation Hester recently gave on the Den Dam and the secrets it reveals.

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