A Plancius Family Visit

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Descendants of Petrus Plancius visit our namesake vessel

Petrus Plancius is one of the big names in historical cartography, a Dutch-Flemish astronomer who lived from 1552 to 1622 and drafted many of the core maps that most define the Golden Age of Dutch Cartography.

For his many contributions to the arts of navigation and exploration, we named one of our first vessels after him, a custom we have proudly continued with subsequent ships Ortelius, Hondius, and our upcoming Janssonius.

It was with great pride, then, that we recently welcomed descendants of Petrus Plancius himself to visit our headquarters in Vlissingen, Netherlands, where they were able to get a firsthand look at the vessel named after their legendary ancestor.

With the help of navigators and fellow cartographers (one of whom, Hondius the Elder, we have written about before), Plancius charted multiple new constellations in both the northern and southern skies.

But he is perhaps best known for his Orbis Terrarum, a map he completed in 1590 and that is distinct for its coverage of the Far East and Arctic. The map also contains an early (and greatly exaggerated) coastline for Terra Australis, later known as Antarctica.

So you can see why Plancius is dear to our hearts. In fact, we included his Terrarum in our historic maps of Antarctica article, which also features maps by Ortelius and Hondius.

A great believer in the Northeast Passage, Plancius supported Willem Barentsz’s explorations for that much coveted (but then-undiscovered) marine trading route to China. And because Barentsz was so important to Arctic exploration, we have also written about his three main expeditions as well as a new project to rebuild his historic vessel, De Witte Swaen.

The Plancius visit was not the first time, however, that we have had the pleasure of hosting the descendants of famous mapmakers: During the maiden voyage of Hondius, we were also fortunate to have relatives of that integral cartographer on board.

We are happy to report our guests enjoyed their tour, and we were honored to have them. Historical figures, even if they are important to us, can often feel distant and impersonal when encountered in a book. But visits like the one we received from the Plancius Family add a human connection we count ourselves lucky to make.

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