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Jacob Le Maire

Jacob Le Maire (c. 1585, Antwerp or Amsterdam - December 22, 1616, at sea) was a Dutch mariner, who circumnavigated the earth in 1615-16. The strait between Tierra del Fuego and Isla de los Estados was named the Le Maire Strait in his honor, however, not without controversy. It was Le Maire himself who proposed to the council aboard Eendracht that the new passage should be called by his name and the council unanimously agreed with Le Maire. The author or authors of THE RELATION[1] took Eendracht captain Schouten’s side by proclaiming:

“ ... our men had each of them three cups of wine in signe of ioy for our good hap ... [and the naming of] the Straights of Le Maire, although by good right it should rather have been called Willem Schouten Straight, after our Masters Name, by whose wise conduction and skill in sayling, the same was found.”[2].

Eendracht then rounded Cape Horn, proving that Tierra del Fuego was not a continent.

Jacob Le Maire was one of 22 children of Maria Walraven of Antwerp and Isaac Le Maire (1558-1624) of Tournai, who was then already a prosperous merchant in Antwerp. Isaac and Maria married shortly before the Spanish siege of Antwerp in 1585 after which they fled to settle in Amsterdam. Jacob is thought to have been the oldest son, born perhaps the same year. Isaac was very successful in Amsterdam, and became one of the founders of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC). However, in 1605 Isaac Le Maire was forced to leave the company after a dispute and for the next decade tried to break the company's monopoly on the trade to the East Indies.

By 1615 Isaac had established a new company (the Australian Company) with the goal to find a new route to the Pacific and the Spice Islands, thereby evading the restrictions of the VOC. He contributed to the outfitting two ships, the Eendracht and Hoorn, and put his son Jacob in charge of trading during the expedition.[3] The experienced ship master Willem Schouten was captain of the Eendracht and a participant of the enterprise in equal shares with Isaac Le Maire.[4]

On June 14, 1615 Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten sailed from Texel in the United Provinces. On January 29, 1616 they rounded Cape Horn, which they named for the Hoorn, which was lost in a fire. The Dutch city of Hoorn was also the birthplace of Schouten. After failing to moor at the Juan Fernández Islands in early March, the ships crossed the Pacific in a fairly straight line, visiting several of the Tuamotus. Between April 21 and 24 1616 they were the first Westerners to visit the (Northern) Tonga islands: "Cocos Island" (Tafahi), "Traitors Island" (Niuatoputapu), and "Island of Good Hope" (Niuafo'ou). On April 28 they discovered the Hoorn Islands (Futuna and Alofi), where they were very well received and staid until May 12. They then followed the north coasts of New Ireland and New Guinea and visited adjacent islands, including what became known as the Schouten Islands on July 24.

They reached the Northern Moluccas in August and finally Ternate, the head quarters of the VOC, on September 12, 1616. Here they were enthusiastically welcomed by Governor-General Laurens Reael, admiral Steven Verhagen, and the governor of Ambon, Jasper Jansz.

The Eendracht sailed on to Java and reached Jacatra on October 28 with a remarkable 84 of the original 87-crew members of both ships on board. Although they had opened an unknown route, Jan Pietersz Coen of the VOC claimed infringement of its monopoly of trade to the Spice Islands. Le Maire and Schouten were arrested and the Eendracht was confiscated. After being released, they returned from Jacatra to Amsterdam in the company of Joris van Spilbergen, who was on a circumnavigation of the earth himself, be it via the traditional Strait of Magellan.

Le Maire was aboard the ship Amsterdam on this journey home, but died en route. Van Spilbergen was at his dying bed and took Le Maire's report of his trip and included it in his book "Mirror of the East and West Indies". Jacob's father Isaac challenged the confiscation and the conclusion of the VOC, but it took him until 1622 until a court ruled in his favor. He was awarded 64,000 pounds, could retrieve his son's diaries (which he then published as well), and his company was allowed trade via the newly discovered route. Unfortunately, by then, the Dutch West Indies Company had claimed the same waters.


  1. ^ THE RELATION OF a Wonderfull Voiage made by Willem Cornelison Schouten of Horne. Shewing how South from the Straights of Magelan in Terra Delfuego: he found and discovered a newe passage through the great South Seaes, and that way sayled round about the world. London: Imprinted by T.D. for Nathanaell Newbery, 1619 [Facsimile of the first edition in English. London: George Rainbird Limited for The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio, 1966]. “Translation thereof out of the Dutch, wherein it was written” by William Philip
  2. ^ THE RELATION, p. 25
  3. ^ "chiefe Marchant and principall factor"
  4. ^ THE RELATION, The Preface


  • Dirk J. Barreveld, Tegen de Heeren van de VOC - Isaac Le Maire En De Ontdekking Van Kaap Hoorn, Sdu uitgeverij, 2002.
  • Kemp, Peter (ed.) (1976) "LeMaire, Jacob (1585-1616)" The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea Oxford University Press, London, ISBN 0192115537 ;
  • Spilbergen, Joris van and Le Maire, Jacob (1619) Speculum orientalis occidentalisque Indiae navigationum, quarum una Georgii à Spilbergen - altera Jacobi le Maire - directa, Annis 1614 - 18 : exhibens Novi in mare Australe transitus, incognitarumque hactenus terrarum ac gentium inventionem ; praelia aliquot terra marique commissa, expugnationesque urbium, una cum duabus novis utriusque Indiae historiis, Catalogo munitionum Hollandicarum, ducum et reliqui bellici apparatus, tretique quatuor, suis quaeque figuris illustrata Geelkercke, Lugduni Batavorum OCLC 64412702 ;

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