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Klaas Hoekstra

Aided by a government subsidy and a financial contribution from King Willem I, the Groenlandsche Straat-Davis fishery society has the new galiot ship Harlingen built in 1825. Under the command of captain Klaas Hoekstra, with 45 crew members on board, the ship leaves its home port for its whaling expedition in Greenland. The expectations for this hellish undertaking are high. People in the port town of Harlingen are celebrating as the crew prepares to depart. The streets in the town are decorated and patriotic songs can be heard everywhere. Both the crew and the people in town have great confidence in the voyage.

Trapped in the ice

Captain Hoekstra and his crew set sail for southern Greenland. When the Harlingen sails into Davis Strait, there are barely any whales. The animals have retreated northwards after years of overfishing. Dozens of whalers, including the Harlingen, set off in pursuit. In August, the voyage comes to a sudden end. Ice floes collide with the new ship and it becomes trapped in the polar ice.


Spending the long winter

Captain Klaas Hoekstra knew the dangers of whaling. The captain and his crew have been trapped in the ice for weeks. With much crackling, the growing ice is crushing his whaler Harlingen. The crew is forced to spend the winter with Eskimos, in the cold and dark polar region of Davis Strait. Hoekstra writes in his diary about their perilous adventures. All but two crew members made it back to Harlingen in the summer of 1827. Because of frostbite, many of them had left a few toes and fingers behind.

  • Portrait Klaas Hoekstra

    Captain galley ship Harlingen

  • Portrait Jantje Hillenius

    Spouse of Klaas Hoekstra

True polar hero

Hoekstra turns out to be a true polar hero in this sea hero story. In the whaling section of regional museum Hannemahuis, you will find many references to this extraordinary story. For instance, the painting by the Harlingen painter Hermanus Siderius of the sinking of the Harlingen galiot ‘Harlingen’ in the ice of Davis Strait near Greenland in 1826; the fur hat of captain Hoekstra who, after a dreadful journey across the ice, spent the winter with his crew in the huts of Eskimos and Danish settlers; and the original diary of Klaas Hoekstra in which he wrote down all his adventures. The museum is definitely worth a visit, as this is where the story really comes to life! 

Harlingen Sea Heroes - Immerse yourself in our illustrious, nautical past