Noordsche Compagnie

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Whaling, by H. Kobell, Jr. Walfang norden.jpg
Whaling, by H. Kobell, Jr.

The Noordsche Compagnie (English: Northern Company) was a Dutch cartel in the whaling trade, founded by several cities in the Netherlands in 1614 and operating until 1642. Soon after its founding, it became entangled in territorial conflicts with England, Denmark, France, and other groups within the Netherlands.

Whaling hunting of whales

Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber, which can be turned into a type of oil which became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution. It was practiced as an organized industry as early as 875 AD. By the 16th century, it had risen to be the principle industry in the coastal regions of Spain and France. The industry spread throughout the world, and became increasingly profitable in terms of trade and resources. Some regions of the world's oceans, along the animals' migration routes, had a particularly dense whale population, and became the targets for large concentrations of whaling ships, and the industry continued to grow well into the 20th century. The depletion of some whale species to near extinction led to the banning of whaling in many countries by 1969, and to a worldwide cessation of whaling as an industry in the late 1980s. The earliest forms of whaling date to at least circa 3000 BC. Coastal communities around the world have long histories of subsistence use of cetaceans, by dolphin drive hunting and by harvesting drift whales. Industrial whaling emerged with organized fleets of whaleships in the 17th century; competitive national whaling industries in the 18th and 19th centuries; and the introduction of factory ships along with the concept of whale harvesting in the first half of the 20th century. By the late 1930s more than 50,000 whales were killed annually. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.


It was also known as the Groenlandse Compagnie (English: Greenland Company), but the name is misleading today since the "Greenland" referred to is Svalbard, previously thought to either be identical or connected to the island of Greenland discovered and colonized by the Norse.

Svalbard Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area administered by a governor appointed by the Norwegian government. Since 2002, Svalbard's main settlement, Longyearbyen, has had an elected local government, somewhat similar to mainland municipalities. Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers.

Greenland Autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark

Greenland is an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a millennium. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island.


In 1598, a whale beached at Wijk aan Zee. The animal was sold for 126 guilders and the jaw was transported to Dillenburg and given to Jan van Nassau as a gift. [1]

Wijk aan Zee Town in North Holland, Netherlands

Wijk aan Zee is a small town on the coast of the North Sea in the municipality of Beverwijk in the province of North Holland of the Netherlands. The prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament takes place there every year.

Dillenburg Place in Hesse, Germany

Dillenburg, officially Oranienstadt Dillenburg, is a town in Hesse's Gießen region in Germany. The town was formerly the seat of the old Dillkreis district, which is now part of the Lahn-Dill-Kreis.

In 1612, the first mention is made of a commercial expedition to Novaya Zemlya after it was concluded that whaling at the Cape of Good Hope in the southern Atlantic offered little prospects of profit. Willem Cornelisz. van Muyden was one of the first skippers to set sail to the North. In 1613, he was the commander of the Neptunus and the Fortuyn, two ships that were sent to Spitsbergen (modern Svalbard, then considered part of Greenland) to hunt for whales. On board were twelve or thirteen French Basques. [2] The remaining crew of 48 men came from North Holland.

Novaya Zemlya Arctic archipelago

Novaya Zemlya, also known as Nova Zembla, is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in northern Russia and the extreme northeast of Europe, the easternmost point of Europe lying at Cape Flissingsky on the Northern island. West of Novaya Zemlya is the Barents Sea, and to the east is the Kara Sea.

Cape of Good Hope Headland of Cape Peninsula, South Africa

The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

On 27 January 1614, the Noordsche Compagnie was founded for a period of two years on Vlieland.[ citation needed ] Tymen J. Hinlopen and Jacques Nicquet were amongst the original investors.[ citation needed ] In 1617, the charter was renewed for another four years and, in 1622, for another twelve.

Vlieland Municipality in Friesland, Netherlands

Vlieland is a municipality and island in the northern Netherlands. The municipality of Vlieland has one major town, Oost-Vlieland. It is the second most sparsely populated municipality in the Netherlands, after Schiermonnikoog.

Thijmen Jacobsz Hinlopen, was one of the leaders of the Dutch merchant and whaling company of Noordsche Compagnie since 1617 and participant in the New Netherland Company, interested in furs. Thijmen was a prominent trader in corn from the Baltic carrying on trade to Genoa and Portugal.

Whaling was done in the summer months. Ships and crew left the ports of the Dutch Republic in May or June. After a three-week journey they arrived at the coastal waters of Spitsbergen, Jan Mayen, or Bear Island. In August, September, or October the ships returned to the Republic. Soon whaling stations were established on Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen, the best known of these being Smeerenburg. These stations saved much space in the cargohold of the ships, and also held relieve the stench. For years the Noordsche Compagnie controlled the monopoly for whale oil. For every expedition, participants would invest capital. When the expedition had returned, the profit would immediately be divided amongst the investors.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The Dutch Republic was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first Dutch nation state.

Spitsbergen largest island of the Svalbard archipelago

Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 37,673 km2 (14,546 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-largest in the world. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Spitsbergen was covered in 21,977 km2 (8,485 sq mi) of ice in 1999, which was approximately 58.5% of the island's total area.

Jan Mayen Norwegian volcanic island situated in the Arctic Ocean

Jan Mayen is a Norwegian volcanic island situated in the Arctic Ocean. It is 55 km (34 mi) long (southwest-northeast) and 373 km2 (144 sq mi) in area, partly covered by glaciers. It has two parts: larger northeast Nord-Jan and smaller Sør-Jan, linked by a 2.5 km (1.6 mi) wide isthmus. It lies 600 km (370 mi) northeast of Iceland, 500 km (310 mi) east of central Greenland and 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the North Cape, Norway. The island is mountainous, the highest summit being the Beerenberg volcano in the north. The isthmus is the location of the two largest lakes of the island, Sørlaguna, and Nordlaguna. A third lake is called Ullerenglaguna. Jan Mayen was formed by the Jan Mayen hotspot.


The Greenland warehouses on the Keizersgracht 40-44. Built in 1621. Photo from 1924, two years after the renovation. Originally there were five, of which only these three remain Groenlandschepakhuizen3.jpg
The Greenland warehouses on the Keizersgracht 40-44. Built in 1621. Photo from 1924, two years after the renovation. Originally there were five, of which only these three remain

The administration of the Noordsche Compagnie was divided into five chambers. These were relatively independent and located in Amsterdam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Rotterdam, and Delft. Each city had its own installations on the polar islands. In 1616 the Zeelandic Lampsin family took part in the company. From then on Vlissingen, Middelburg and Veere also had a chamber. In 1634 the charter was renewed for another eight years. In 1636 two Frisian chambers were created: Harlingen and Stavoren.

Trading territories

The trading area of the Noordsche Compagnie stretched from the Davis Strait to Novaya Zemlya, north of Russia. The company did not make any claims to the territory, they were only concerned with their trading-monopoly.

Initially the company made much use of Basque Harpooners and navigators. Aside from whales, walrus and seals were also hunted. The polar bear hunt resulted in skins and fur. Whale baleen was used to make picture frames for paintings, walking sticks and knifehilts.

Michiel de Ruyter, the most famous Dutch admiral, served as pilot on a ship of the Noordsche Compagnie from 1633 to 1635. He was probably familiar with the route from the time that he was still a sailor.

The company was dissolved in 1642. The company had started receiving intense competition from Dutch interlopers and Danish whalers. Whaling was privatized, and taken over by the private sector.

The participation of the population of the West Frisian Islands to whaling is evident from the tombstones of the ship-captains buried there, which were made from whale jawbones.

See also

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  1. Landwehr, J. De Nederlander uit en thuis. Spiegel van het dagelijkse leven uit bijzondere zeventiende-eeuwse boeken, pp. 102103. 1981. ‹See Tfd› (in Dutch)
  2. Hart, S. De eerste Nederlandse tocht ter walvisvaart. Op. cit. in Jaarboek Amstelodamum, p. 40. 1957. ‹See Tfd› (in Dutch)
  3. Groenlandse pakhuizen Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine , Bureau Monuments and Archeology, Amsterdam


Whaling in the Arctic, anonymous 18th century print 18th century arctic whaling.jpg
Whaling in the Arctic, anonymous 18th century print