In the 1590s, the newly independent Dutch Republic looked to flex its economic muscle, but stronger, more-established nations like Spain and Portugal stood in its way. Their ships blocked the way to wealthy trading ports in Asian nations. Besides, even without their interference, the trip to the Spice Islands (now known as Indonesia) took the better part of a year. What was desperately needed was a faster route to the wealth of Asia that bypassed the military threats of European rivals.
Enter Willem Barentsz.