The Plancius Foundation
The Plancius Foundation had its origins at the University of Groningen in the north of The Netherlands. Here, the Arctic Center launched a research program into the Dutch whaling industry around the island of Spitsbergen in the 17th century. In 1979, professor Louwrens Hacquebord from the University lead the initiative to buy a ship named Pollux and this ship was renamed Plancius for research around the Dutch settlement of Smeerenburg. This settlement was located at the north end of the island of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard chain of islands north of Norway. Smeerenburg can be translated to English as Blubber Town (true!) and Plancius was a Flemmish astronomer and geographer born in 1552. He fled the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) in 1558 and settled in Amsterdam, where he died in 1622. In 1590, he had created a worldmap which was used in the Bible and of course his maps were also used for shipping.
In 1983, the Plancius Foundation used the ship for a polar expedition cruise to the Svalbard archipelago and they started to return here every year for an extended cruise with their Plancius. In 1996 however, the company faced severe funding difficulties and had to sell the ship. And so an end came to the first cruise operator in the world that had yearly sailed for Spitsbergen.
Oceanwide Expeditions was formed in 1993 for small-ship cruising to the islands of Spitsbergen (Svalbard) with a small former fishingvessel, the Rembrandt van Rijn. This ship was chartered from a company from Groningen, the Stichting Werkgelegenheids Projecten (Foundation for Employment Projects). To continue the legacy of the Plancius Foundation, in 2004 they bought the former Dutch naval vessel HrMs Tydeman. This ship had been an oceanographic researchvessel for the navy and was rebuilt into a small expeditionship also recieving the name of Plancius. Although they continued the work of the Plancius Foundation, Oceanwide Expeditions also started to explore other territories of the map, as they also sail for the Antarctic next to the Arctic and are thus not limited to the Svalbard archipelago although this still is a favorite tourist destination. The company is based in the Dutch port of Vlissingen, once the town where many of the Dutch ocean greyhounds were built, especially for the services to the Dutch Indies, now Indonesia.
In october of 1998, the company also bought a small 1924-built schooner named Rembrandt van Rijn after the famous Dutch painter. She can only accomodate 33 passengers and is small enough to get these to the most remote corners of the planet. In 2011, another sailingship was bought named Noorderlicht, built in 1910. This ship is almost only used in Svalbard from Longyearbyen, although she also sails for Lofoten and several other places in the Arctic. She has accomodations for just 22 passengers.
Also in 2011 they bought a former Russian passenger and supplyvessel and named her Ortelius, after the Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) who was the inventor of the modern atlas. This ship was even fitted with two helicopters and a helipad.
In june of 2018, Oceanwide Expeditions launched their first purpose-built cruiseship from the Brodosplit Yards at Split, Croatia. The ship was named Hondius and she will also recieve a sistership in a few years time named Janssonius. With these ships, Oceanwide Expeditions is well prepared for the future of expedition cruising that is rapidly modernizing. Several of their ships have recently been reflagged to The Netherlands also so we can be proud here of another Dutch flagged cruiseline next to the Americanized Holland America Line. Main reason for Oceanwide Expeditions to use the Dutch flag and the port of Vlissingen for registration of the ships was the history this port has to Dutch shipbuilding and shipping in general.