Whaler Hidde Dirks Kat from Ameland

Amelander Hidde Dirks Kat was a whaler and commander on the brig Juffrouw Klara. In the 18th century he hunted whales and seals in the Arctic Ocean. In 1777 his ship became stuck in the ice and he and his crew were forced to spend the winter on the ice. Not all of them survived, but Kat returned to the island in one piece. He met, among others, Eskimos, who offered the men shelter. We know quite accurately what he experienced because he kept a diary that is well worth reading.

Source: Book Hidde Kat

Hidde Dirks Kat van Ameland

‘What sailor, who steered the keel to the barren North,
Was there ever on earth’, who endured so much disaster As Cat, the proud Cat, who emptied the cup of suffering Up to the tree, and yet, thank God! Still alive.’

This old rhyme is about the Amelander commander, Hidde Dirks Kat. He was a captain on a whaling ship. In 1777, during one of his Greenland voyages, his ship became stuck in the ice. After many wanderings, Kat reaches civilization with only a few survivors . He records his experiences during this harsh adventure in a diary, with the title: ‘Diary of a voyage for whaling and seal fishing, made by the Kommandeur Hidde Dirks Kat in the years 1777 and 1778’.

Street Davids

Cat hunts whales in the Davis Strait near Greenland. These whalers are also called Davis Strait sailors . At the age of 24 he was a whaling commander. For six years he sailed the brig ‘Jufvrouw Klara’ on behalf of a Hamburg ship owner.


Hidde Dirks Kat was born in Hollum on Ameland on June 14, 1747. He turned out to be a competent captain, who lived in Hollum during the last years of his life. He died there on January 17, 1824.

Miss Klara

On March 5, 1777, Kat embarked on a voyage with the Miss Klara, with a crew of 38.
They leave from Hamburg for Greenland to catch seals and whales. At the beginning of April they reach the West Ice near Greenland. That’s where they catch seals. Kat sets course for Spitsbergen and there they catch their first whale of that trip in June. A month later, Miss Klara freezes to death. Four more ships are stuck nearby. Two ships are cracked by the ice and the crew is divided among the remaining three ships, which continue to drift.

Miss Klara

The name of the whaler of which Kat was commander is written in different ways, as Miss Klara, Miss Klara and Miss Clara. Kat wrote in his diary about Miss Klara .

Ice floes

In October, Kat first tries to rescue her with sloops and later on foot on ice. There are several victims: men slip on the ice, some drown and others fall between the floes. The commander also slides between the floes, but is pulled out twice.


With only seventeen survivors, Hidde Kat reached Statenhoek on October 11. They live on berries and mussels. Then on October 15 they meet three Eskimos. Kat and the men are amazed. The castaways are brought to the settlement. Hidde Kat writes in his diary: ‘The overwhelming love of these wild people, which truly exceeds that of many Christians, made our hearts melancholy and grateful to God. To be able to hear the cries of children satisfied us with our fate… Afterwards we felt very well.’

They rest with the Eskimos and get food and drinks. After a week they travel further; there are still fifteen men left , who reach the Danish colony of Julianahoop in small boats. Winter is coming and further travel is impossible. Hidde Kat writes: ,We spent the winter, after so much misery, at Juliaans Hoop, with as much cheerfulness as possible.,

Home journey

Six months later, July 9, 1778, Kat and his men arrive in the Frederikshoop colony, where a ship is moored that will take them back to Germany. They arrive in Denmark in September. Then, after a visit to the shipowner in Hamburg, Kat travels to Ameland, to his wife Jantje Jans and his one child. His second child died in his absence.
Kat is nevertheless grateful and concludes his diary with: ‘Thanks to God for all the undeserved grace shown to me, Hidde Kat.,

Hidde Dirks Kat on the HD Katstraat / Source: Ameland Press Agency

Hidde points to the place where he lived / Source: Ameland Press Agency

The playground equipment in the Hollum forest / Source: Ameland Press Agency


Jantje Jans

Kat was married to J antje Jans, daughter of a commander from Nes. They lived in Hollum and had four children. Dirk, Trijntje, Geeske and Hidde. The youngest three died at a very young age. Trijntje died during the absence of his father. Hidde Dirks Kat was in Greenland and only knew that his daughter had died when he returned home in the autumn of 1778. Only Dirk’s son, Dirk Hiddes Kat, born in 1771, reached adulthood. He also went sailing, first with his father on the ship and later he became a captain himself. After 1801 there is no trace of Dirk, so it is assumed that he remained at sea.

Tombstone of Hidde Dirks Kat / Source: Ameland Press Agency

Commercial shipping

Hidde Kat no longer goes whaling and switches to commercial shipping. The Kat family moves to Hamburg. He makes a big living with his company. The former commander is becoming corpulent: at the age of 66 he is said to weigh 303 pounds.
Hidde Dirks Kat does not forget Ameland. He regularly traveled to the island, where he died in Hollum in 1824. On the southwest side of the large church in Hollum there is a simple stone with his initials. That is the grave of Hidde Dirks Kat.

Source: Wijdemeer Publishers

Playground equipment, statue and street
In the forest near Hollum, next to a large wooden climbing whale, there was a wooden effigy of Kat to play on. Only the photo of that wooden Cat remains; the wood continued to deteriorate and was removed. In the village a street is named after the Kat and at the De Stelp care center on the HD Katstraat there has been a bronze statue of the commander in the garden since 1994, by Frans Ram.


In 1818 the diary that was written based on Kat’s notes was published. In it the commander describes his adventures and hardships. In 2018, the year that Ameland celebrates becoming Hidde Dirks Kat’s Island, an edition of the diary was retranslated into modern Dutch. It is called ‘The diary of the Amelander whaler Hidde Dirks Kat’.

Hidde Dirks Kat

A . Ameland, island of Hidde Dirks Kat
B . Hamburg
C . Greenland
D . Street Davis


read more

  • Buro HDK 2018 and the Hidde Dirks Kat year on Ameland
  • Whaler and commander Marten Jansen from Ameland
  • Commander’s houses with mouse teeth and tiles on Ameland
  • In the Heart of the Sea – film about whaler Essex
  • Ambergris, amber, ambergris – scented substance from the sperm whale

Leave a Comment