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Title: Vitus Bering: the Discoverer of Bering Strait
Author: Lauridsen, Peter
Language: English
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                   RUSSIAN EXPLORATIONS, 1725-1743.

                             VITUS BERING:



                           PETER LAURIDSEN,



                           JULIUS E. OLSON,



                          FREDERICK SCHWATKA,


                        S. C. GRIGGS & COMPANY,

                           COPYRIGHT, 1889,
                     BY S. C. GRIGGS AND COMPANY.

                               PRESS OF
                         KNIGHT & LEONARD CO.


  LIEUT. SCHWATKA'S INTRODUCTION                                     vii

  TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE                                               xii

  AUTHOR'S PREFACE                                                    xv




  Russia and England in the work of Arctic exploration.--Vitus
  Bering's rank as an explorer                                         3


  Bering's nativity.--Norwegians and Danes in the service of
  Peter the Great.--Founding of the Russian navy                       6


  Plans for Bering's First Expedition.--Peter the Great's desire to
  know the extent of his empire.--The Northeast passage               12


  Bering's knowledge of Siberian geography.--Terrors of traveling
  in Siberia.--The expedition starts out.--The journey
  from St. Petersburg to the Pacific                                  19


  The building of the Gabriel.--The discovery of Bering Strait        29


  The task assigned by Peter the Great accomplished.--History of
  the cartography of East Siberia.--Captain Cook's defense of
  Bering                                                              35


  Bering's winter at the fort.--Indications of an adjacent
  continent.--Unsuccessful search for this continent.--Return to
  St. Petersburg.--General review of the results of the First
  Expedition                                                          50




  Bering's plans for a second expedition.--The greatest geographical
  enterprise ever undertaken                                          61


  The Great Northern Expedition on its way through Siberia.--Difficulties
  and dangers encountered and overcome                                77


  Delay of the expedition caused by the death of Lassenius and
  his command in the Arctic regions.--Dissatisfaction of the
  Senate and Admiralty with Bering's work                             91


  Final Preparations for the Pacific expeditions                      99




  The Arctic expeditions.--The Northeast passage.--Severe criticisms
  on Nordenskjöld                                                    107


  The discovery of the Kurile Islands and Japan from the north       117


  Preparations for Bering's voyage of discovery to America.--Founding
  of Petropavlovsk.--The brothers De l'Isle                          127


  The discovery of America from the east.--Steller induced to
  join the expedition.--The separation of the St. Peter and
  the St. Paul                                                       135


  Bering's place of landing on the American coast.--Captain
  Cook's uncertainty.--The question discussed and definitely
  settled                                                            143


  Explorations along the American coast.--Steller's censure of
  Bering for undue haste.--Bering defended.--Dall, the
  American writer, reprimanded.--The return voyage                   150


  The discovery of the Aleutian Islands.--Terrible hardships of
  the voyage.--Steller's fault-finding.--Bering confined to his
  cabin.--Deaths on board from exhaustion and disease.--Bering
  Island discovered.--A narrow escape                                164


  The stay on Bering Island.--Fauna of the island.--A rich field
  for Steller.--His descriptions immortalize the expedition.--The
  sea-cow.--Its extermination.--Nordenskjöld refuted.--Preparations
  for wintering.--Sad death of Bering.--An
  estimate of his work.--Chirikoff's return.--The crew of the
  St. Peter leave the Island.--The Great Northern Expedition
  discontinued.--Bering's reports buried in Russian
  archives.--Bering honored by Cook                                  174


  NOTES                                                              202
  INDEX                                                              217



A biography of the great Bering is of especial interest to American
readers desiring an accurate history of a country that has recently
come into our possession, and the adjoining regions where most of
the geographical investigations of the intrepid Danish-Russian
explorer were made. The thorough, concise, and patient work done by
Mr. Lauridsen is deserving of world-wide commendation, while the
translation into the language of our land by Professor Olson of the
University of Wisconsin puts students of American historical geography
under a debt for this labor of love rather than remuneration that
cannot be easily paid, and which is not common in our country. It is a
matter of no small national pride that the translation into the English
language of a work so near American geographical interests should have
been done by an American, rather than emanate from the Hakluyt Society
or other British sources, from which we usually derive such valuable
translations and compilations of old explorations and the doings of the
first explorers.

The general American opinion regarding Bering is probably somewhat
different from that on the continent which gave him birth and a patron
government to carry out his gigantic and immortal plans; or, better
speaking, it was different during the controversy in the past over the
value and authenticity of the great explorer's works, for European
opinion of Bering has slowly been more and more favorable to him, until
it has reached the maximum and complete vindication in the admirable
labors of Lauridsen, whose painstaking researches in the only archives
where authentic data of the doings of the daring Dane could be found,
has left no ground for those critics to stand upon, who have censured
Peter the Great's selection of an oriental explorer. In short, America
has always respected Bering as a great explorer, and oftentimes
heralded him as one of the highest of heroes, whatever may have been
the varying phases of European thought on the subject; and the reasons
therefor, I think, are two-fold. In the first place, the continent
which Bering first separated from the old world is yet a new country.
Since its discovery, not only exploration, but commercial exploration,
or pioneering as we call it, has been going on, and in this every one
has taken his part or mingled often with those who have. Presidents who
were pioneers, have been contemporaries with our times, while those who
have struggled on the selvage of civilization are numerous among us,
and their adventures as narrated in books are familiar stories to our
ears. Such a people, I believe, am much less liable to listen to the
labored logic of a critic against a man who carried his expedition six
thousand miles across a wilderness and launched it on the inhospitable
shores of an unknown sea, to solve a problem that has borne them fruit,
than others not similarly situated would be. While the invariable rule
has been that where the path-finder and critic--unless the critic
has been an explorer in the same field--have come in collision, the
latter has always gone to the wall, it is easy to see that with a jury
that have themselves lived amidst similar, though possibly slighter,
frontier fortunes, such a verdict is more readily reached.

The other reason, which is not so commendable, is that few Americans
at large have interested themselves in the discussion, or in fact knew
much about it. True, the criticisms on the Eastern continent have been
re-echoed on this side of the water, and even added to, but, they have
created no general impression worth recording as such in a book that
will undoubtedly have far wider circulation than the discussion has
ever had, unless I have misjudged the temper of the American people to
desire information on just such work as Bering has done, and which for
the first time is presented to them in anything like an authentic way
by Professor Olson's translation of Mr. Lauridsen's work. I do not wish
to be understood that we as a nation have been wholly indifferent to
Bering and the discussion of his claims. Far from it. It has rather
been that in invading the Bering world their disposition has led them
to view the solid ground on which he made his mark, rather than the
clouds hovering above, and which this work dissipates. It is rather of
that character of ignorance--if so strong a word is justifiable--that
is found here in the persistent misspelling of the great explorer's
name and the bodies of water which have transmitted it to posterity
so well, although the authority--really the absolute demand, if
correctness is desired--for the change from _Behring_ to _Bering_ has
been well known to exist for a number of years, and is now adopted in
even our best elementary geographies. While the animalish axiom that
"ignorance is bliss" is probably never true, there may be cases where
it is apparently fortunate, and this may be so in that Americans in
being seemingly apathetic have really escaped a discussion which after
all has ended in placing the man considered in about the same _status_
that they always assumed he had filled. One might argue that it would
have been better for Americans, therefore, if they had been presented
with a simple and authentic biography of the immortal Danish-Russian,
rather than with a book that is both a biography and a defense, but
Lauridsen's work after all is the best, I think all will agree, as no
biography of Bering could be complete without some account of that part
in which he had no making and no share, as well as that better part
which he chronicled with his own brain and brawn.

I doubt yet if Americans will take very much interest in the dispute
over Bering's simple claims in which he could take no part; but that
this book, which settles them so clearly, will be welcomed by the
reading classes of a nation that by acquisition in Alaska has brought
them so near the field of the labor of Bering, I think there need not
be the slightest fear. It is one of the most important links yet welded
by the wisdom of man which can be made into a chain of history for our
new acquisition whose history is yet so imperfect, and will remain so,
until Russian archives are placed in the hands of those they consider
fair-minded judges, as in the present work.

On still broader grounds, it is to be hoped that this work will meet
with American success, that it may be an entering wedge to that
valuable literature of geographical research and exploration, which
from incompatibility of language and other causes has never been fully
or even comprehensively opened to English speaking people. It has been
well said by one who has opportunities to fairly judge that "it has
been known by scientists for some time that more valuable investigation
was buried from sight in the Russian language than in any or all
others. Few can imagine what activity in geographical, statistical,
astronomical, and other research has gone on in the empire of the
Czar. It is predicted that within ten years more students will take up
the Russian language than those of other nations of Eastern Europe,
simply as a necessity. This youngest family of the Aryans is moving
westward with its ideas and literature, as well as its population
and empire. There are no better explorers and no better recorders of
investigations." It is undoubtedly a field in which Americans can reap
a rich reward of geographical investigation. There is an idea among
some, and even friends of Russia, that their travelers and explorers
have not done themselves justice in recording their doings, but this
in the broad sense is not true. Rather they have been poor chroniclers
for the public; but their official reports, hidden away in government
archives, are rich in their thorough investigations, oftentimes more
nearly perfect and complete than the equivalents in our own language,
where it takes no long argument to prove that great attention given to
the public and popular account, has been at the expense of the similar
qualities in the official report; while many expeditions, American
and British, have not been under official patronage at all, which has
seldom been the case with Russian research. As already noted, the bulk
of similar volumes from other languages and other archives into the
English has come from Great Britain; but probably from the unfortunate
bitter antagonism between the two countries which has created an apathy
in one and a suspicion in the other that they will not be judged in
an unprejudiced way, Russia has not got a fair share of what she has
really accomplished geographically translated into our tongue. It is
through America, an unprejudiced nation, that this could be remedied,
if a proper interest is shown, and which will probably be determined,
in a greater or less degree, by the reception of this book here,
although it comes to us in the roundabout way of the Danish language.

                                           FREDERICK SCHWATKA.


In placing before the American public this book on Vitus Bering, I
desire to express my cordial thanks to those who by word and deed have
assisted me. I am especially grateful to Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka,
who, in the midst of pressing literary labors consequent on his recent
explorations among the cave and cliff dwellers of the Sierra Madre
Mountains, has been so exceedingly kind as to write an introduction
to the American edition of this work. I feel confident that the
introductory words of this doughty explorer will secure for Bering that
consideration from the American people to which he is fairly entitled.

I find it a pleasant day to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Leonhard
Stejneger of the Smithsonian Institution, who has sent me some valuable
and interesting notes to the chapter on "The Stay on Bering Island"
(Chapter XIX). Dr. Stejneger's notes are of especial interest, for in
the years 1882-'84 he spent eighteen months on Bering Island in the
service of the United States government, the object of his expedition
being to study the general natural history of the island, to collect
specimens of all kinds, but especially to search for remains of the
sea-cow. He wished also to identify the places mentioned by Steller,
the famous naturalist of the Bering expedition, in order to compare
his description with the localities as they present themselves to-day,
and to visit the places where Bering's vessel was wrecked, where the
ill-fated expedition wintered, and where Steller made his observations
on the sea-cow. The results of Dr. Stejneger's investigations have been
published in "Proceedings of the United States National Museum" and in
various American and European scientific journals.

I am also under obligation to Prof. Rasmus B. Anderson, Ex-United
States Minister to Denmark, through whom I have been enabled to make
this an authorized edition, and to Reuben G. Thwaites, Secretary of the
Wisconsin State Historical Society, and Frederick J. Turner, Assistant
Professor of American History in the University of Wisconsin, for
valuable criticism and suggestions.

In regard to the orthography of Russian and Siberian names, I wish
to say that I have endeavored to follow American writers that
advocate a rational simplification. W. H. Dall, author of "Alaska
and its Resources," says on this point: "From ignorance of the true
phonetic value of the Russian compound consonants, and from literal
transcription, instead of phonetic translation, of the German rendering
of Russian and native names, much confusion has arisen. Many writers
persistently represent the third letter of the Russian alphabet by _w_,
writing Romanow instead of Romanoff, etc. The twenty-fifth letter is
also frequently rendered _tsch_ instead of _ch_ soft, as in church,
which fully represents it in English. It is as gross an error to spell
_Kamchatka_ for instance, _Kamtschatka_, as it would be for a foreigner
to represent the English word _church_ by _tschurtsch_, and so on."
From this it would seem that the Germanized forms of these names are
incorrect, as well as needlessly forbidding in appearance. It is,
moreover, due to German writers that Bering's name has been burdened
with a superfluous letter. Facsimiles of his autograph, one of which
may be seen by referring to Map I. in the Appendix, prove incontestably
that he spelled his name without an _h_.

Although Mr. Lauridsen's book is essentially a defense of Vitus Bering,
written especially for the student of history and historical geography,
it nevertheless contains several chapters of thrilling interest to the
general reader. The closing chapters, for instance, give, not only a
reliable account of the results of Bering's voyage of discovery in
the North Pacific, and valuable scientific information concerning the
remarkable animal life on Bering Island, where, before Bering's frail
ship was dashed upon its shores, no human foot had trod, but they also
portray in vivid colors the tragic events that brought this greatest of
geographical enterprises to a close.

The regions to which Bering's last labors gave Russia the first title
are at the present time the object of much newspaper comment. His last
expedition, the few survivors of which brought home costly skins that
evinced the great wealth of the newly discovered lands, opened up to
the Russian fur-hunter an El Dorado that still continues to be a most
profitable field of pursuit, now vigilantly watched by the jealous eyes
of rival nations.

                                              JULIUS E. OLSON.



Through the patronage of the Hielmstierne-Rosencrone Institution,
obtained in the summer of 1883, I was enabled to spend some time
among the archives and libraries in St. Petersburg, to prepare myself
for undertaking this work on Vitus Bering. I very soon, however,
encountered obstacles which unassisted I should not have been able
to surmount; for, contrary to my expectations, all the original
manuscripts and archives pertaining to the history of Bering were
written in Russian, and the latter in such difficult language that none
but native palæographers could read them.

I should for this reason have been compelled to return without having
accomplished anything, had I not in two gentlemen, Admiral Th. Wessalgo
and Mr. August Thornam of the telegraph department, found all the
assistance that I needed. The Admiral is director of the department
of hydrography, and has charge of the magnificent archives of the
Admiralty. He is very familiar with the history of the Russian fleet,
and he gave me, not only excellent and exhaustive bibliographical
information, besides putting at my disposal the library of the
department, but also had made for me copies of various things that were
not easily accessible. He has, moreover, since my return been unwearied
in furnishing me such information from the Russian archives as I have
desired. For all of this kindness, enhanced by the Admiral's flattering
remarks about Denmark and the Danes, I find it a pleasant duty to
express my warmest thanks. To Mr. Thornam I am no less indebted.
Notwithstanding his laborious duties in the central telegraph office of
St. Petersburg, he found it possible week after week, often eight or
ten hours out of the twenty-four, to assist me in translating the vast

Besides this, I derived much benefit from his comprehensive knowledge
of Siberia, obtained on travels in the same regions where Bering had
been. He has had the kindness to examine the collection of charts and
maps in both the Admiralty and Imperial libraries, and secure for me
some valuable copies. He has also, at my request, examined a series of
articles in periodicals containing notices of Bering's geographical

It is only by means of this valuable assistance that I have succeeded
in basing this biographical sketch on Russian literature, and putting
it, as I hope, on a par with what has been written on this subject by
Russian authors.

Of the many others that in one way or another have seconded
my efforts in giving as valuable a biography of my renowned
fellow-countryman as possible, I owe special thanks--not to mention
the Hielmstierne-Rosencrone Institution--to Mr. Hegel, the veteran
publisher, Col. Hoskier, Dr. Karl Verner, instructor in Sclavonic
languages at the University of Copenhagen, who has examined some very
difficult archival matter for me, Professor Alexander Vasilievich
Grigorieff, Secretary of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society,
and to Mr. E. W. Dahlgren, Secretary of the Swedish Society for
Anthropology and Geography. P. L.





In the great work of Arctic exploration done during the last two
centuries, it was first Russia and later England that took the lead,
and to these two nations we are principally indebted for our knowledge
of Arctic continental coast-lines. The English expeditions were
undertaken with better support, and under circumstances better designed
to attract public attention. They have, moreover, been excellently
described, and are consequently well known. But in the greatness
of the tasks undertaken, in the perseverance of their leaders, in
difficulties, dangers, and tragic fates, Russian explorations stand
worthily at their side. The geographical position of the Russians,
their dispersion throughout the coldest regions of the earth, their
frugal habits, remarkable power of foresight, and their adventurous
spirit, make them especially fitted for Arctic explorations. Hence, as
early as the first half of the eighteenth century, they accomplished
for Asia what the English not until a hundred years later succeeded in
doing for the other side of the earth,--namely, the charting of the
polar coasts.

In this work the Russians introduced the system of coasting and
sledging into the service of Arctic expeditions, and it is only
through a systematic development of these means that western Europe has
been enabled to celebrate its most brilliant triumphs in the Arctic
regions, and to succeed in getting farther than did the navigators of
the seventeenth century. The history of Russian polar explorations has
a series of proud names, which lack only the pen of a Sherard Osborn
to shine by the side of Franklin and McClure, and it redounds to the
honor of Denmark that one of the first and greatest of these men was
a Dane,--that the most brilliant chapter in the history of Russian
explorations is due to the initiative and indefatigable energy of Vitus
Bering. In the service of Peter the Great he successfully doubled the
northeastern peninsula of Asia, and after his return he made a plan for
the exploration of the whole Northeast passage from the White Sea to
Japan. Although he succumbed in this undertaking, he lived long enough
to see his gigantic plans approach realization.

Bering was buried on an island in the Pacific, amid the scenes of his
labors, under that sand-barrow which had been his death-bed. For many
generations only a plain wooden cross marked his resting-place, and
as for his fame, it has been as humble and modest as his head-board.
His labors belonged to a strange people who had but little sympathy
for the man. His own countrymen, among whom he might have found this
sympathetic interest, knew his work but very imperfectly. Not until
after the lapse of a century did he find a careful biographer, and even
within comparatively recent years the great scientist Von Baer has
found it necessary to defend him against misunderstandings and petty

Danish literature contains nothing of moment concerning him, for the
two treatises which several generations ago were published by M.
Hallager and Odin Wolff, are merely scanty extracts from G. F. Müller's
historical works. In the following pages, therefore, relying not only
upon Russian, but also upon West European literature for information,
we desire to erect to him a monument by giving a short account of his
life and work, sketching at the same time a chapter of geographical
history which is lacking neither in importance nor in interest.



Vitus Bering was a son of Jonas Svendsen and his second wife, Anna
Bering of Horsens, at which place he was born in the summer of 1681. On
the maternal side he descended from the distinguished Bering family,
which during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries flourished in
various parts of Denmark, and included a very respectable number of
ministers and judicial officers.[1]

Our hero passed his childhood in a Christian family of culture in the
Jutland seaport town of his birth. Here for a series of years his
father filled several positions of trust, and was closely associated
with the leading men of the place, as his wife's sister, Margaret
Bering, had married two consecutive mayors. He was, however, far from
being considered well-to-do. He had many children. One of his sons
had caused him much trouble and expense, and was finally sent to the
East Indies. In the probate record of his estate, made in 1719, there
is a deed of conveyance from himself and wife in which the following
appears: "We are old, miserable, and decrepit people, in no way able
to help ourselves. Our property consists of the old dilapidated home
and the furniture thereto belonging, which is of but little value." It
was his share of this inheritance, with accrued interest, all amounting
to 140 _rigsdaler_, that Vitus Bering later presented to his native
town to be used for the benefit of the poor.

From inclination, and forced by the circumstances of his humble home,
Bering went to sea, and on the long expeditions that he made, he
developed into an able seaman. From an East India expedition in 1703 he
came to Amsterdam, where he made the acquaintance of Admiral Cruys, a
native of Norway. Soon afterwards, at the age of twenty-two, he joined
a Russian fleet as a sub-lieutenant. What Norwegian and Danish seamen
accomplished at this period in the service of Russia, has been almost
entirely forgotten. In the company of intelligent foreigners that Czar
Peter employed for the transformation of his kingdom, the Danish-Norse
contingent occupies a prominent place. This is due principally to
Peter himself, and was a result of his experiences in Holland. After
having, on his first extensive foreign trip, learned the art of
ship-building,--not in Zaandam, as it is usually stated, but at the
docks of the East India Company in Amsterdam,--he was much dissatisfied
with the empirical method which the Hollanders used, and he wrote to
Voronetz, his own ship-yard, that the Dutch ship-builders there should
no longer be permitted to work independently, but be placed under the
supervision of Danes or Englishmen.

Peter retained his high regard for Danish-Norse ship-building during
his whole life, and it was on this account that Danes and Norwegians
were enabled to exert so great an influence in St. Petersburg. This is
the reason, too, that Danish-Norse[2] seamen were received so kindly in
Russia even long after the death of the great Czar.

Next to Peter, Norwegians and Danes had the greatest share in the
founding of the Russian fleet, and among them the place of honor
belongs to the Norseman Cornelius Cruys, who in 1697 was assistant
master of ordnance in the Dutch navy, where he was held in high
regard as a ship-builder, a cartographer, and as a man well versed in
everything pertaining to the equipment of a fleet. Peter made him his
vice-admiral, and assigned to him the technical control of the fleet,
the building of new vessels, their equipment, and, above all, the task
of supplying them with West European officers.

Weber assigns Cruys a place in the first rank among those foreigners to
whom Russia owes much of her development, and remarks that it was he,
"the incomparable master of ordnance, who put the Russian fleet upon
its keel and upon the sea." He belonged to the fashionable circles of
St. Petersburg, owned a large and beautiful palace on the Neva, where
now tower the Winter Palace and the Hermitage, and was one of the few
among the wealthy that enjoyed the privilege of entertaining the Czar
on festive occasions. He became vice-president of the council of the
Admiralty, was promoted, after the peace of Nystad, to the position of
admiral of the Blue Flag, and made a knight of the order of Alexander

In Peter the Great's remarkable house in St. Petersburg there is
preserved, among many other relics, a yawl which is called the
grandfather of the fleet. With this, Peter had begun his nautical
experiments, and in 1723, when he celebrated the founding of his fleet,
he rowed down the Neva in it. Peter himself was at the rudder, Apraxin
was cockswain, and Admiral Cruys, Vice-Admiral Gordon, Sievers and
Menshikoff were at the oars. On this occasion the Czar embraced Cruys
and called him his father.

During his whole life Cruys preserved a warm affection for his native
land; hence it was natural that the Scandinavian colony in St.
Petersburg gathered about him. His successor as vice-president of the
council of the Admiralty, and as master of ordnance, was the former
Danish naval lieutenant Peter Sievers, who likewise elevated himself
to most important positions, and exerted a highly beneficial influence
upon the development of the Russian fleet. At the side of these two
heroes, moreover, there were others, as Admirals Daniel Wilster and
Peter Bredal, Commander Thure Trane, and also Skeving, Herzenberg,
Peder Grib, "Tordenskjold's[3] brave comrade in arms," and many others.

For a long time Vitus Bering was one of Cruys's most intimate
associates, and these two, with Admiral Sievers, form an honorable trio
in that foreign navy. Bering was soon appointed to a position in the
Baltic fleet, and during Russia's protracted struggles, his energy
found that scope which he before had sought on the ocean, and at the
same time he had the satisfaction of fighting the foes of his native
land. He was a bold and able commander. During the whole war he cruised
about in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, and in the Baltic and other
northern waters. Some of the most important transport expeditions
were entrusted to him. The Czar prized his services very highly, and
when, after the misfortune at Pruth in 1711, he laid a plan to rescue
three of the best ships of his Black Sea fleet by a bold run through
the Bosporus, Vitus Bering, Peder Bredal, and Simon Skop were chosen
for the task. Whether the plan was carried out, it is difficult to
determine. Berch says that it was not, and adds, "I cite the incident
simply to show that even at that time Bering was looked upon as an
excellent commander." In various West European authorities, however,
it is distinctly stated that Sievers conducted the ships to England,
and in a review of Bering's life published by the Admiralty in 1882, it
is stated that Bering was in 1711 appointed to conduct the ship Munker
from the Sea of Azov to the Baltic, and as the Admiralty would hardly
in a condensed report have taken notice of plans which had never been
carried out, it seems most probable that Berch has been incorrectly

In 1707 Bering was promoted to the position of lieutenant, in 1710
to that of lieutenant-captain, and in 1715 to that of captain of
the fourth rank, when he assumed command of the new ship Selafail
in Archangel to sail it to Copenhagen and Kronstadt. In 1716 he
participated in an expedition of the united fleets to Bornholm under
the command of Sievers. In 1717 he was made captain of the third, and
in 1720 of the second rank, and took part, until peace was concluded,
in the various manoeuvers in the Baltic under the command of Gordon and

After the peace of Nystad in 1721, however, his position became
somewhat unpleasant. Although he was a brother-in-law of Vice-Admiral
Saunders, he had, according to Berch, powerful enemies in the
Admiralty. The numerous promotions made after the conclusion of peace,
in no way applied to him. In the following year younger comrades
were advanced beyond him, and hence in 1724 he demanded promotion to
a captaincy of the first rank, or his discharge. After protracted
negotiations, and in spite of the fact that Apraxin repeatedly refused
to sign his discharge, he finally obtained it, and then withdrew to his
home in Viborg, Finland, where he owned an estate, and where, no doubt
on account of the Scandinavian character of the city, he preferred
to stay. During the negotiations for his discharge, the Czar was in
Olonetz, but some time afterwards he informed Apraxin that Bering was
again to enter the navy, and with the desired promotion. This occurred
in August, 1724, and a few months later Bering was appointed chief of
the _First Kamchatkan Expedition_, the object of which was to determine
whether Asia and America were connected by land.


[1] Some details of Bering's genealogy, which can be of no interest to
the American reader, the translator has taken the liberty to omit.

[2] Norway and Denmark were at this time united.--TR.

[3] Peter Tordenskjold (1691-1720), a Norwegian in the Danish Norse
service,--the greatest naval hero Scandinavia has ever produced.--TR.

[4] See Appendix, Note 1.



The equipment of Bering's first expedition was one of Peter the Great's
last administrative acts. From his death-bed his energy set in motion
those forces which in the generation succeeding him were to conquer a
new world for human knowledge. It was not until his mighty spirit was
about to depart this world that the work was begun, but the impetus
given by him was destined to be effective for half a century; and the
results achieved still excite our admiration.

Peter was incited to undertake this work by a desire for booty, by a
keen, somewhat barbaric curiosity, and by a just desire to know the
natural boundaries of his dominion. He was no doubt less influenced
by the flattery of the French Academy and other institutions than
is generally supposed. His great enterprise suddenly brought Russia
into the front rank of those nations which at that time were doing
geographical exploration. Just before his death three great enterprises
were planned: the establishment of a mart at the mouth of the river Kur
for the oriental trade, the building up of a maritime trade with India,
and an expedition to search for the boundary between Asia and America.
The first two projects did not survive the Czar, but Bering clung to
the plan proposed for him, and accomplished his task.

Peter the Great gave no heed to obstacles, and never weighed the
possibilities for the success of an enterprise. Consequently his
plans were on a grand scale, but the means set aside for carrying
them out were often entirely inadequate, and sometimes even wholly
inapplicable. His instructions were usually imperious and laconic.
To his commander-in-chief in Astrakhan he once wrote: "When fifteen
boats arrive from Kazan, you will sail them to Baku and sack the
town." His instructions to Bering are characteristic of his condensed
and irregular style. They were written by himself, in December, 1724,
five weeks before his death, and are substantially as follows: "I. At
Kamchatka or somewhere else two decked boats are to be built. II. With
these you are to sail northward along the coast, and as the end of the
coast is not known this land is undoubtedly America. III. For this
reason you are to inquire where the American coast begins, and go to
some European colony; and when European ships are seen you are to ask
what the coast is called, note it down, make a landing, obtain reliable
information, and then, after having charted the coast, return."

After West Europe for two centuries had wearied itself with the
question of a Northeast passage and made strenuous efforts to navigate
the famed Strait of Anian, Russia undertook the task in a practical
manner and went in search of the strait, before it started out on a
voyage around the northern part of the old world.

Were Asia and America connected, or was there a strait between the two
countries? Was there a Northwest and a Northeast passage? It was these
great and interesting questions that were to be settled by Bering's
first expedition. Peter himself had no faith in a strait. He had,
however, no means of knowing anything about it, for at his death the
east coast of Asia was known only as far as the island of Yezo. The
Pacific coast of America had been explored and charted no farther than
Cape Blanco, 43° north latitude, while all of the northern portion
of the Pacific, its eastern and western coast-lines, its northern
termination, and its relation to the polar sea, still awaited its

The above-mentioned ukase shows that the Czar's inquisitive mind was
dwelling on the possibility of being able, through northeastern Asia,
to open a way to the rich European colonies in Central America. He
knew neither the enormous extent of the far East nor the vastness
of the ocean that separated it from the Spanish colonies. Yet even
at that time, various representatives of the great empire living in
northeastern Siberia had some knowledge of the relative situation of
the two continents and could have given Bering's expedition valuable

Rumors of the proximity of the American continent to the northeastern
corner of Asia must very early have been transmitted through Siberia,
for the geographers of the sixteenth century have the relative position
of the two continents approximately correct. Thus on the Barents map
of 1598, republished by J. J. Pontanus in 1611, a large continent
towers above northeastern Asia with the superscription, "America Pars,"
the two countries being separated by the Strait of Anian[5] (Fretum
Anian). On a map by Joducus Hondius, who died in 1611, East Siberia is
drawn as a parallelogram projecting toward the northeast, and directly
opposite and quite near the northeast corner of this figure a country
is represented with the same superscription. This is found again in the
map by Gerhard Mercator which accompanies Nicolai Witsen's "_Noord en
Ost Tartarye_," 1705, and in several other sixteenth century atlases.
It is quite impossible to determine how much of this apparent knowledge
is due to vague reports combined with happy guessing, and how much to a
practical desire for such a passage on the part of European navigators,
whose expensive polar expeditions otherwise would be folly. This much
is certain, however: Witsen and other leading geographers based their
views on information received from Siberia and Russia.[6]

In the history of discoveries the spirit of human enterprise has fought
its way through an incalculable number of mirages. These have aroused
the imagination, caused agitations, debates, and discussions, but have
usually veiled an earlier period's knowledge of the question. There
are many re-discovered countries on our globe. So in this case. The
northwestern part of America wholly disappeared from the cartography
of the seventeenth century, and through the influence of Witsen's
and Homann's later maps it became customary to represent the eastern
coast of Asia by a meridian passing a little east of Yakutsk, without
any suggestions whatever in regard to its strongly marked peninsulas
or to an adjacent western continent. But even these representations
were originally Russian, and are undoubtedly due to the first original
Russian atlas, published by Remesoff. They finally gave way to the
geographical explorations of the eighteenth century, which began
shortly after the accession of Peter the Great, having been provoked by
political events and conditions.

By the treaty of Nertchinsk in 1689 the Yablonoi Mountains were
established as the boundary line between Russia and China. By this
means the way to the fertile lands of Amoor was barred to that indurate
caste of Russian hussars and Cossacks who had conquered for the
White Czar the vast tracts of Siberia. A second time they fell upon
northeastern Siberia, pressing their way, as before, across uninhabited
tundras along the northern ocean, and thence conquered the inhabited
districts toward the south. They discovered the island of Liakhov,
penetrated the country of the Chukchees, Koriaks, and Kamshadales,
and at the Anadyr River, in Deshneff's old palisaded fort, they found
that point of support from which they maintained Russia's power in the
extreme northeast. In this way the Russians learned the enormous extent
of the country; but as they had no exact locations, they formed a very
incorrect opinion of its outlines, and estimated its length from west
to east too small by forty degrees.

From the fort on the Anadyr, Kamchatka was conquered in the first years
of the eighteenth century, and from here came the first information
concerning America. In 1711 the Cossack Popoff visited the Chukchee
peninsula, and here he heard that from either side of the peninsula,
both from the "Kolymaic" Sea and the Gulf of Anadyr, an island could be
seen in the distance, which the Chukchees called "the great land." This
land they said they could reach in _baidars_ (boats rowed by women) in
one day. Here were found large forests of pine, cedar, and other trees,
and also many different kinds of animals not found in their country.
This reliable information concerning America seems at the time to have
been known in other parts of Siberia only in the way of vague reports,
and was soon confused with descriptions of islands in the Arctic.

Czar Peter, however, soon laid his adjusting hand upon these groping
efforts. By the aid of Swedish prisoners of war, he opened the
navigation from Okhotsk to Kamchatka, and thus avoided the circuitous
route by way of the Anadyr. A Cossack by the name of Ivan Kosyrefski
(the son of a Polish officer in Russian captivity) was ordered to
explore the peninsula to its southern extremity, and also some of
the Kurile Islands. In 1719 he officially despatched the surveyors
Yevrinoff and Lushin to ascertain whether Asia and America were
connected, but secretly he instructed them to go to the Kurile
Islands to search for precious metals, especially a white mineral
which the Japanese were said to obtain in large quantities from the
fifth or sixth island. Through these various expeditions there was
collected vast, although unscientific, materials for the more correct
understanding of the geography of eastern Asia, the Sea of Okhotsk,
Kamchatka, the Kuriles, and Yezo. Even concerning the Island of
Nipon (Hondo), shipwrecked Japanese had given valuable information.
Simultaneously, the northern coast about the mouth of the Kolyma, had
been explored by the Cossacks Viligin and Amossoff. Through them the
first information concerning the Bear Islands and Wrangell Island found
its way to Yakutsk. The Cossack chief Shestakoff, who had traveled
into the northeastern regions toward the land of the Chukchees,
accepted the accounts of the former for his map, but as he could
neither read nor write, matters were most bewilderingly confused. Yet
his representations were later accepted by Strahlenberg and Joseph de
l'Isle in their maps.


[5] In Baron A. E. Nordenskjöld's review of the Danish edition of this
work on Bering in the _Journal of the American Geographical Society_,
Vol. XVII., p. 290, he says: "In Barents' map of 1598 there is not, as
Mr. Lauridsen seems to suppose, anything original as to the delineation
of the northern coast of Asia and the relative situation of Asia and
America. In this respect Barents' map is only a reproduction of older
maps, which, with regard to the delineation of the northern coast of
Asia, are based upon pre-Columbian suppositions; and these again rest
upon the story told by Pliny the Elder in the 'Historia Naturalis,'
L. VII., 13, 17, about the northern limit of the world known to him,"
etc. The judicious reader can not fail to see that the renowned author
here shoots far beyond the mark, for Pliny the Elder can hardly be
supposed to have had any knowledge of "America Pars."--_Author's Note
to American Edition._

[6] Note 2.



And now the question is, what did Bering know of these efforts which
had been made during the decades preceding his expedition, and which
in spite of their unscientific character, were nevertheless of such
great importance in order to be able to initiate one's self in the
geography of eastern Asia? In the first place, the surveyor Lushin,
was a member of the Bering expedition, and when Bering, in the summer
of 1726, was sojourning in Yakutsk, Shestakoff's nephew, who had
accompanied his uncle on his expedition against the Chukchees, became
an attaché of Bering's expedition, while the elder Shestakoff had gone
to Russia to collect means for the contemplated military expedition.
Furthermore, Ivan Kosyrefski, who in the meantime had become a monk,
was also staying in Yakutsk, and his valuable report preserved in the
voivode's (governor's) office was now surrendered to Bering. Thus we
see that Bering was in personal contact with the men, who, in the
decade preceding, were the chief possessors of geographical knowledge
concerning those northeastern regions.

In the second place, he received in Yakutsk information concerning
Deshneff's journey in 1648 from the Kolyma to the Anadyr River.
Although this journey was first critically discussed by G. F.
Müller,[7] its main features were nevertheless well known in Siberia,
and are referred to, among other places, in Strahlenberg's book, whence
the results appear in Bellini's map in Peter Charlesvoix's "_Histoire
du Japan_," published in 1735. Unfortunately, however, Bering seems to
have had no knowledge of Popoff's expedition to the Chukchees peninsula
and his information concerning the adjacent American continent, or of
Strahlenberg's outline maps, which were not published until after his
departure from St. Petersburg.

Bering's two expeditions are unique in the history of Arctic
explorations. His real starting point was on the extremest outskirts
of the earth, where only the hunter and yassak-collector had preceded
him. Kamchatka was at that time just as wild a region as Boothia or the
coasts of Smith's Sound are in our day, and, practically viewed, it
was far more distant from St. Petersburg than any known point now is
from us. One hundred and thirty degrees--several thousand miles--the
earth's most inhospitable tracts, the coldest regions on the globe,
mountains, endless steppes, impenetrable forests, morasses, and
fields of trackless snow were still between him and the mouth of the
Kamchatka River, and thither he was to lead, not a small expedition,
but an enormous provision train and large quantities of material for
ship-building. On the journey, river-boats had to be built by the
score, and also two ships. Now his course was up the swift streams of
Siberia, and now on horseback or in sledges drawn by dogs through the
dreary and desolate forests of the Yakuts and Tunguses. He employed
several hundred laborers and twice as many horses to do work which
modern ships can accomplish in a few weeks. Franklin, Mackenzie,
Schwatka, and many others have traversed vast tracts of the Arctic
regions, but their expeditions in light sledges can not be compared
with those burdensome transports which Bering and his men dragged from
the Gulf of Finland to the shores of the Pacific.

In the early part of the year 1725 the expedition was ready to start
out from St. Petersburg. The officers were the two Danes, Vitus
Bering, captain and chief, and Martin Spangberg, lieutenant and second
in command, and also the following: Lieut. Alexei Chirikoff, Second
Lieut. Peter Chaplin, the cartographers Luskin and Patiloff, the mates,
Richard Engel and George Morison, Dr. Niemann, and Rev. Ilarion.[8]
The subordinates were principally sailors, carpenters, sailmakers,
blacksmiths, and other mechanics.

Peter the Great died Jan. 28, 1725;[9] but a part of the expedition
under the command of Lieut. Chirikoff had already started on the 24th;
Bering followed Feb. 5. They passed the whole of the first summer in
toilsome expeditions overland and on rivers in western Siberia. March
16, they arrived at Tobolsk, whence, in May, the journey was continued
with four rafts and seven boats by way of the rivers Irtish, Obi, Ket,
Yenisei, Tunguska, and Ilim, through regions where there was scarcely
a Russian _isba_, on rivers which were dangerous on account of hidden
rocks and skerries, and where progress was constantly interrupted by
the transporting that had to be done between the streams. September 29,
the expedition arrived at the town of Ilimsk and had to pass the winter
there. Meanwhile, however, Lieut. Chaplin had, in the spring, been
sent in advance to Yakutsk, in order, at the voivode's (governor's) to
hasten the preparations for transportation in the direction of Okhotsk,
whither he was to send a small command who were to fell trees and
begin the work of ship-building. Bering[10] himself went to Irkutsk to
obtain from the governor there information concerning the climate and
physical features of Eastern Siberia, the modes of travel, and means
of transportation in that distant and little known country. Spangberg
was sent with mechanics and soldiers to the Kut, a tributary of the
Lena, for the purpose of cutting timber and building vessels for the
voyages to be made in the spring. At Ustkutsk there were built in all
fifteen barges (about 45 feet long, 12 feet wide and 15 inches deep)
and fourteen boats. On May 8, 1726, Spangberg sailed for Yakutsk, and
somewhat later Chirikoff started off with the rear. By the middle of
June, the expedition was gathered at the capital of East Siberia, which
at that time had three hundred houses. Here Bering remained until
the 16th of August, busily engaged in making preparations for the
difficult journey eastward. He had made two thousand leathern sacks for
transporting flour to Okhotsk, and gave the voivode orders to keep
in readiness six hundred horses to forward other necessaries for the

From this point the expedition traveled an entirely untrodden path,
and the 1026 versts (685 miles) to Okhotsk were a severe test of
its endurance. Even in our day, this journey can be made only under
the greatest difficulties. The region is rough and mountainous, and
intersected by deep streams without bridges or other means of crossing.
The traveler must traverse dangerous swamps and tundras, or cut his
way through dense forests. In the winter the difficulties are doubled.
Horses, reindeer, and dogs soon become exhausted on these unbroken
roads. A space cleared in the snow, when the cooking, eating, and
sleeping are done, is the only shelter. The temperature falls to -46°
R. (-71° Fahrenheit). Clothing must be changed daily to avoid dampness,
and when the _poorgas_ (blizzards) sweep over the snowy wastes, a few
steps from camp are often fatal. This is a description of that region
in our day, and it was hardly any more inviting over a hundred and
fifty years ago.

It was found necessary to divide the expedition. The branching
tributaries of the Lena offered possibilities for transportation
which had to be taken advantage of. Hence, as early as July 7, Lieut.
Spangberg was sent by river with thirteen rafts loaded with materials,
and a force of 204 workmen to reach Yudomskaya Krest by way of the
tributaries Aldan, Maya, and Yudoma, and thence across a ridge down
to the river Urak, which flows into the Sea of Okhotsk. The overland
expeditions, consisting of 800 horses, were sent in various directions.
Bering himself started out on August 16, with 200 horses, and after a
journey of forty-five days, reached Okhotsk. The journey was a very
difficult one. The horses sought in vain for food under the deep snow.
Scores of them were overcome by hunger and exhaustion. The severe cold
caused the forces much suffering and hardship, nor did they find but
few comforts when they reached Okhotsk in the latter part of October.
The town consisted of only eleven huts, with ten Russian families, who
supported themselves by fishing. Here, too, many of the horses died
for lack of food, and a herd of heifers sent there by Shestakoff was
lost from the same cause. Only one survived the winter. It was now
necessary to build huts for the winter. The whole of November was spent
in felling trees, and not until December 2, could Bering take shelter
under a roof of his own. On the other hand, the ship for the expedition
was on the stocks, and in spite of all troubles and privations, Bering
found time to push forward vigorously its construction.

Spangberg, however, fared worst of all. Winter took him by surprise
two hundred and seventy-five miles from Yudomskaya Krest, the nearest
inhabited place, in an entirely barren and swampy region where he could
not obtain the slightest assistance. His boats and the bulk of their
provisions had to be left at the confluence of the Yorbovaya and the
Yudoma, while he and his men, with what provisions they could take with
them on the hand-sleds, started out for Okhotsk on foot. Meanwhile,
the severity of the winter increased, the mercury congealed, and the
snow was soon six feet deep. This forced them to leave their sleds, and
for eight full weeks after November 4, these travelers sought shelter
every night in the snows of Siberia, wrapped in all the furs they could
possibly get hold of. Their provisions were soon exhausted, famine
soon became a companion to cold, and matters even came to such a pass
that they were compelled to try to maintain life by gnawing "straps,
leathern bags, and shoes." They would surely have starved to death, had
they not accidentally happened to strike Bering's route, where they
found dead horses and a few hundred-weights of flour. December 21,
Bering received from Spangberg a message, relating that he had started
for Yudomskaya Krest with ninety-six sledges, and that he had left the
boats in charge of a mate and six guards. Bering immediately dispatched
ten sledges with provisions for his relief, and on the succeeding day,
thirty-seven sledges with thirty-nine men. January 6, 1727, Spangberg
reached Okhotsk, and a few days later his whole command had arrived,
eighteen of whom were now sick. Twice during the course of the winter,
Spangberg and Chaplin were obliged to repeat this journey to rescue the
materials at the Yudoma. Not until midsummer, 1727, did the rear under
the command of Chirikoff arrive from Yakutsk.

And yet Bering was far from the place where his work of discovery
could begin. On June 8, the new ship Fortuna was launched and equipped
for the prospective voyage. Moreover, the ship that had been used
in exploring the Sea of Okhotsk in 1716 arrived, and after thorough
repairs was put into the service.

Bering's next objective point was the mouth of the river Bolshoya
in southwestern Kamchatka. From the mouth of this river, which is
navigable for small vessels, he took the Cossack route to the interior,
first up the Bolshoya to the tributary Byistraya, then up this to
within forty versts of its source, thence across a portage to the
Kamchatka, the mouth of which was his real objective point. From this
position he would be able to fall back upon the Russian colony, which
comprised a number of unimportant stockaded forts on the Bolshoya and
Kamchatka rivers, and could also gain support from that control of the
natives which was exercised from this point. This change of base could
have been much more easily and quickly accomplished by sailing around
the Kamchatka Peninsula, but this was something that had never been
done. No accurate information was to be had in regard to the waters, or
to the location of any place. Possibly Bering had not as yet been able
to disabuse his mind of the prevalent delusions concerning the great
extent of Kamchatka. In the second place, he was no doubt unwilling to
trust his invaluable stores in the inferior vessels built at Okhotsk.
Hence he took the old route.

July 1, Spangberg sailed with the Fortuna for Bolsheretsk, accompanied
by thirteen Siberian traders. Two days later Chirikoff brought up the
rear from Yakutsk. Somewhat later, the quartermaster arrived with 110
horses and 200 sacks of flour. A week later 63 horses more arrived, on
July 20, one soldier with 80 horses, and by the 30th over 150 horses
more, and also 50 oxen.

August 11, Spangberg returned from his voyage to the Bolshoya River,
and on the 19th the whole command went on board,--some on the Fortuna
and others on the old vessel. Their destination was the Bolshoya,
situated 650 miles from Okhotsk, where they arrived September 4. Here
the cargoes were transferred to boats and, in the course of the month
of September, brought to the fort, a simple log fortress with seventeen
Russian dwellings and a chapel, twenty miles from the sea. It took the
whole winter to traverse, first with boats and later with sledges, the
585 miles across Kamchatka, from Bolsheretsk to the lower Kamchatka
fort. Under the greatest difficulties, the expedition now followed
the course of the Kamchatka River, camping at night in the snow, and
enduring many a fierce struggle with the inclement weather. The natives
were summoned from far and near to assist in transporting their goods,
but the undertaking proved fatal to many of them. Finally on March 11,
1728, Bering reached his destination, the lower Kamchatka Ostrog,[11]
where he found forty huts scattered along the banks of the river, a
fort, and a church. A handful of Cossacks lived here. They occupied
huts built above the surface of the ground. They did not always eat
their fish raw, but in other respects lived like the natives, and were
in no regard much more civilized than they. The fort was located twenty
miles from the sea, surrounded by forests of larch, which yielded
excellent material for ship-building. From this point the exploring
party proper was to start out.[12]


[7] Note 3.

[8] Note 4.

[9] Here as elsewhere, Old Style.

[10] Note 5.

[11] An Ostrog is a stockaded post or village.

[12] Note 6.



Bering now found himself upon the bleak shores of an Arctic sea, with
no other resources than those he had brought with him, or could extort
from these barren tracts. He again began the work of ship-building, and
in the summer of 1728, a ship called the Gabriel, staunch enough to
weather a heavy sea, was launched. The timber for this vessel had been
hauled to the ship-yard by dogs; the tar they had prepared themselves,
while rigging, cable, and anchors had been dragged nearly two thousand
miles through one of the most desolate regions of the earth. And as
for the provisions, they would certainly strike terror in the hearts
of Arctic explorers of to-day. "Fish oil was his butter, and dried
fish his beef and pork. Salt he was obliged to get from the sea,"
and according to the directions of the Cossacks he distilled spirits
from "sweet straw."[13] Thus supplied with a year's provisions, he
started upon his voyage of discovery along an unknown coast and on an
unknown sea. "It is certain," says Dr. Campbell concerning Bering at
this stage, "that no person better fitted for this undertaking could
have been found; no difficulty, no danger daunted him. With untiring
industry and almost incredible patience he overcame those difficulties
which to anyone else would have seemed insurmountable."

On July 9, the Gabriel started down the river, and on the 13th the
sails were hoisted. The crew numbered forty-four men: namely, one
captain, two lieutenants, one second lieutenant, one physician, one
quartermaster, eight sailors, one saddler, one rope-maker, five
carpenters, one bailiff, two Cossacks, nine soldiers, six servants,
one drummer, and two interpreters. Bering's point of departure was
the lower Kamchatka fort, situated 160° 50' east of Greenwich, the
variation of the compass being 13° 10' E. The latitude of the cape at
the mouth of the Kamchatka River was determined as 56° 3' N., which
agrees with the observations made by Cook, who was very near this point
on his last voyage. The day was reckoned from 12 o'clock at noon, on
which account his dating does not correspond with that of civil time;
hence, the 16th of August with him began on the 15th, at noon. The mile
of the journal is the Italian mile, which is somewhat longer than the
English mile. Bering's course was nearly all the time along the coast,
in from nine to twelve fathoms of water, and usually with land in sight
to the north and west. On July 27, they passed Cape St. Thaddeus at
a distance of three miles, and here the sea seemed fairly alive with
spotted whales, seals, sea-lions, and dolphins. After having sailed
past the Anadyr River, without quite being able to find their bearings
in regions of which they had not a single astronomical determination,
and where they were not successful in finding any natives, they
finally, on July 31, saw land extending along the northern horizon,
and soon afterwards sailed into the Bay of the Holy Cross (St. Kresta
Bay) where the Gabriel spent two days under sail in search of fresh
water and a place to anchor. On the 2d of August the latitude was
determined as 60° 50' N., whereupon the voyage was continued to the
southeast along the high and rocky coast, where every indentation
was very carefully explored. August 6, the Gabriel lay in the Bay of
Preobrashensky, and on the 7th, Chaplin was sent ashore to obtain water
from a mountain stream. On his way he found huts, where there had quite
recently been Chukchees, and in various places he found footpaths, but
met no human beings. On the 8th, Bering sailed along the coast in a
south southeasterly direction. At 7 o'clock, a boat containing eight
men was seen rowing toward the vessel. They did not, however, dare to
approach the Gabriel, but at last one of the number jumped into the
water, and on two inflated seal bladders swam out to the ship, and
announced, by the aid of the two Koriak interpreters, that they were
Chukchees, and that their people lived along the coast, that they knew
the Russians well, that the Anadyr River lay far to the west, that the
continent extended in the same direction, and that they would soon get
sight of an island. The Koriaks, however, understood his language only
imperfectly, and the journal regrets that they were on this account
prevented from obtaining further important information. Bering gave him
some small presents and sent him back to try to persuade his companions
to come on board. They approached the vessel, but suddenly turned and
disappeared. The latitude was 64° 41'.

August 9, Cape Chukotskoi was doubled, an important event in the
history of this expedition,--an event which Müller, in order to make
results fit into his frame, has not even mentioned. The name, it is
true, is not found in the journal, but it appears on Bering's chart
in Du Halde's work, which Müller knew. Bering determined the southern
extremity of the cape to be 64° 18', Cook 64° 13'.

August 11, the weather was calm and cloudy. At 2 o'clock in the
afternoon, they saw an island toward the southeast, which Bering, in
honor of the day, called St. Lawrence. At noon the latitude was found
to be 64° 20', and hence the Gabriel was in the strait between Asia and

August 12, there was a light breeze and cloudy weather. On this day
they sailed sixty-nine miles, but the difference in latitude was only
29'. At sunset the longitude was computed by the aid of the variation
of the needle to be 25° 31' east of the lower Kamchatka fort, or 187°
21' east of Greenwich.

August 13, a fresh breeze and cloudy. Bering sailed during the whole
day with land in sight, and the difference in latitude was only 78'.

August 14, weather calm and cloudy. They sailed 29 miles + 8-3/4 miles
for the current. The course of the current was from south southeast to
north northwest. At noon the latitude was 66° 41' when they saw high
land astern, and three hours later high mountains. (East Cape is 66° 6'
N. lat. and 190° 21' east of Greenwich.)

August 15, gentle wind, cloudy weather. From noon until 3 o'clock
Bering sailed to the northeast, and after having sailed seven miles
in this direction, he determined to turn back. At 3 o'clock he
announced, that as he had now accomplished his task, it was his duty,
according to his orders, to return. His bearings were then 67° 18'
N. latitude, and 30° 19' east of the Kamchatka fort, or 193° 7' east
of Greenwich. In Du Halde, where Bering himself gives his reasons,
it is stated: "This was Captain Bering's most northerly point. He
thought that he had accomplished his task and obeyed orders, especially
as he no longer could see the coast extending toward the north in
the same way. (_Surtout, parcequ'il ne voyait plus que les terres
continuassent de courier de même du côté du Nord._") Moreover, if they
should go farther, he feared, in case they should have adverse winds
that they might not be able to return to Kamchatka before the end of
the summer, and how were they to be able to pass the winter in such a
climate, liable to fall into the hands of a people who had not yet been
subjugated, and who were human only in outward appearance.[14]

When Bering turned about, his command was to steer south by west,
half west. In this course they sailed with the wind at a rate of more
than seven miles an hour. At 9 o'clock in the morning, they saw a
high mountain on the right, where Chukchees lived, and to the left
and seaward they saw an island, which in honor of the day they called
Diomede.[15] This day they sailed 115 miles, and reached latitude 66°

On August 17, Bering again passed the narrowest part of the strait. The
weather was cloudy, there was a fresh breeze, and they sailed along the
Asiatic coast, where they saw many Chukchees, and at two places they
saw dwellings. The natives fled at the sight of the ship. At 3 o'clock
very high land and mountains were passed. With a very good breeze, they
had been enabled to sail 164 miles, and an observation showed that they
were in latitude 64° 27'. According to this, Bering was out of the
strait and getting farther and farther away from the American continent.

August 18, the wind was light and the weather clear. On the 20th,
beyond the Island of St. Lawrence, he met other Chukchees, who told him
that they had made journeys from the Kolyma River westward to Olenek,
but that they never went by sea. They knew of the Anadyr fort which lay
farther to the south; on this coast there dwelt people of their race;
others they did not know.

After a storm on the 31st of August, in which the main and foresail
were rent, the anchor cable was broken and the anchor lost, they
reached the mouth of the Kamchatka at 5 o'clock P. M., September 2,


[13] Note 7.

[14] Note 8.

[15] Note 9.



Bering turned back because he felt convinced that he had sailed around
the northeastern corner of Asia, and had demonstrated that in this
part of the earth the two great continents were not connected. The
third point in his orders was of course dropped, for along the Siberian
coasts of the Arctic sea, he could expect to find neither European
colonists nor ships; hence, further search with this object in view
would be vain. He had a very clear idea of the general outline of
eastern Asia, and this knowledge was based upon the facts of his own
voyage, the information he had obtained in Yakutsk about Deshneff's
expedition from Kolyma to Anadyr, and upon the account which the
natives gave of the country and of their commercial journeys westward
to Olenek.

He was, moreover, convinced that he had given the search for a
Northeast passage a rational foundation, and his thoughts on this
subject are found clearly presented in a correspondence from St.
Petersburg to a Copenhagen periodical, _Nye Tidende_, in 1730, whence
the following: "_Bering has ascertained that there really does exist
a Northeast passage, and that from the Lena River it is possible,
provided one is not prevented by polar ice, to sail to Kamchatka, and
thence to Japan, China, and the East Indies._" This correspondence,
which appeared immediately after his return on the first of March,
1730, originated either with him or with some of his immediate friends,
and shows that he fully appreciated the extent of his discovery.[16]
It was this conviction that led him to undertake his next great
enterprise, the navigating and charting of the Northeast passage from
the Obi River to Japan,--from the known West to the known East.

Unfortunately, however, the principal result of his work remains as
above stated. An unhappy fate prevented him from discovering the
adjacent American continent. At the narrowest place, Bering Strait is
39 miles wide; and hence, under favorable conditions, it is possible to
see simultaneously the coast-lines of both continents.[17] Cook, more
fortunate than Bering, was enabled to do this, for when he approached
the strait, the sun dispersed the fog, and at one glance both
continents were seen. With Bering it was otherwise, for, as we have
seen from his journal, the weather during the whole time that he was in
the strait, both on the voyage up and back, was dark and cloudy. Not
until the 18th of August did the weather clear up, but as the Gabriel
was sailing before a sharp breeze, he was then too far away to see land
on the other side. "This," Von Baer exclaims, "must be called _bad

We may possibly feel inclined to blame Bering for his haste. Why did
he not cruise about in the region of 65° to 67° north latitude? A few
hours' sailing would have brought him to the American coast. This
objection may, however, prove to be illegitimate. The geographical
explorer, as well as every other investigator, has a right to be judged
from the standpoint of his times, and on the basis of his own premises.
Bering had no apprehension of an adjacent continent, partly on account
of the Koriak interpreter's imperfect knowledge of the Chukchee
tongue, partly as a result of the fact that the knowledge of the times
concerning the western coast of America was very meager. This knowledge
extended no farther than to 43° north latitude,--to Cape Blanco in
California; hence, in the nature of things, he could not be expected to
search for land which presumably he knew nothing of. But here we must
also take into consideration his poor equipment. His cables, ropes,
and sails were in such bad condition, after the three years' transport
through Siberia, that he could not weather a storm, and his stock of
provisions was running so low that it put an unpleasant check on any
inclination to overreach his main object, and this, as we have seen,
did not include the exploration of an American coast, if separated
from Asia. To explore a new coast thirteen degrees of latitude and
thirty degrees of longitude in extent, and make such a chart of it
that its outline is comparatively correct, and which, for a long time,
was far superior to anything made afterward,[18] ought certainly to be
considered a splendid result, when we remember that the objects of the
expedition were entirely of a nautico-geographical character. Bering's
determinations of longitude in East Siberia were the first made there,
and through them it was ascertained that the country extended thirty
degrees farther toward the east than was supposed. His observations
were based on two eclipses of the moon in Kamchatka in the years 1728
and 1729,[19] and although they were not entirely accurate, they vary
so little, that the general position of the country was established.
And hence we are not surprised to find that no one has given Bering a
better testimonial than his great and more fortunate successor, Captain
Cook. He says:[20] "In justice to the memory of Bering, I must say,
that he has delineated the coast very well, and fixed the latitude
and longitude of the points better than could be expected from the
methods he had to go by." Yes, Captain Cook found it necessary to
defend Bering against the only official report of the expedition which
at that time had appeared, and more than once he puts in proper relief
Bering's sober investigations, as compared with Müller's fancies and
guesses. Before the time of Cook, it had been customary to depreciate
Bering's work;[21] but since that time Admiral Lütke, a hundred years
after Bering's death, has defended his reputation, and Berch, who very
carefully perused his journals, repeatedly expresses his admiration
for the accuracy with which the nautical computations were made. This
statement is made after a comparison of results with those obtained by
Captain Cook.

Furthermore, as has already been said, Bering was not aware of the
fact that he was sailing in a comparatively narrow sound,--in that
strait which has carried his name to posterity. He saw nothing beyond
the nearest of the Diomede Islands, that is to say, the middle of the
strait; and this island, as we have seen, is mentioned in the journal
and on the chart, with the latitude correctly given.[22] His name was
not immediately associated with these regions. The first place, so
far as I am able to ascertain, that the name Bering Strait appears,
is on a map which accompanies Rob. de Vangondie's "_Mémoire sur les
pays de l'Asie_," Paris, 1774. But it is especially to Captain Cook's
high-mindedness that the name was retained, for it was used in his
great work. Later, Reinholdt Forster, who characterizes Bering as "a
meritorious and truly great navigator," triumphantly fought his cause
against Büsching and others.[23]

But even at the present time, an interesting misunderstanding attaches
to this part of Bering's history and the cartography of these regions.
In our Arctic literature and on all our polar maps, it is asserted
that Vitus Bering, on his first voyage, turned back at Cape Serdze
Kamen. That such a supposition has been able to maintain itself, only
shows how little the original sources of his history are known in West
Europe, and how unheeded they have been in Russia. About a hundred
years ago the Danish Admiral De Löwenörn and the English hydrographer
A. Dalrymple showed that Frobisher Strait had by some ignorant hand
been located on the east coast of Greenland, while it was in reality
located on the coast of _Meta incognita_ beyond Davis Strait.[24] A
similar error presents itself in connection with Serdze Kamen. It can
be historically established that this name has been the object of a
double change, and that the present Serdze Kamen on the northern coast
of the Chukchee peninsula, has nothing whatever to do with the history
of Bering and his voyage. This misunderstanding is, however, not of
recent date, for as early as in the first decade after the voyage, it
was assumed that Bering's course, even after he had passed East Cape,
was along the coast. Thus I find on a map by Hazius in Nuremberg,
1738,[25] and other maps of about the same time, based on Bering's map
as given by Du Halde, that the Gabriel's turning point is marked by a
star near the coast with the same latitude as the present Serdze Kamen,
with the following explanation: "_Terminus litorum a Navarcho Beerings
recognitorum._" This supposition gradually gained ground in West Europe
as well as in Russia, especially so, too, as Bering's new expedition
and consequent death prevented him from correcting the error, and as
there for a generation was nothing more known of the voyage than the
resumé which appears in Du Halde's work. Moreover, the manner in which
the coast-line in Bering's original map is extended beyond East Cape,
has only served to strengthen the opinion. The fact is that Serdze
Kamen was a name unknown to Bering. It is found neither on his map, in
his own account, nor in the ship's journal, and could not be so found
for a very obvious reason--Bering had never been there.

After having passed East Cape on the 14th of August, he no longer
sailed along the coast. On that day at noon they still saw land astern,
and three hours later, high mountains, but during the succeeding
forty-eight hours land was seen neither to the east nor the west.

As we have seen, the journal gives the turning point as 4° 44' east of
Cape Chukotskoi, and Dr. Campbell gives another series of astronomical
determinations, sent by Bering from Kamchatka to the Senate in St.
Petersburg, and these show in a striking way that the turning point was
east of the northeastern corner of Asia.

According to these:[26]

The Island of St. Lawrence is 64° north latitude and 122° 55' east of

The Island of Diomede is 66° north latitude and 125° 42' east of

The turning point, 67° 18' north latitude and 126° 7' east of Tobolsk.

Hence, Serdze Kamen (67° 3' north latitude and 188° 11' east of
Greenwich), as Berch[27] expressly remarks, must have lain more than
four degrees west of the turning point. That this must have been
so appears also from the course of the vessel on its return, west
southwest, which would have been impossible, if the Gabriel had been
near the north coast, intending to return through the strait. Among
recent writers, Von Baer[28] alone critically calls attention to these
facts, without, however, thoroughly investigating the case. This I
shall now attempt to do.

The name Serdze Kamen appears for the first time--historically
speaking--in Gerhard Fr. Müller's _Sammlung Russischer Geschichte_,
Vol. III., 1758.[29] He says: "Bering finally, in a latitude of 67°
18', reached a headland whence the coast recedes to the west. From this
the captain drew the very plausible conclusion that he now had reached
the most northeasterly point of Asia. But here we are forced to admit
that the circumstance upon which the captain based his conclusion was
false, as it has since been learned that the above-mentioned headland
was identical with the one called Serdze Kamen by the inhabitants
of Fort Anadyr, on account of the promontory being heart-shaped."
Even this looks suspicious. The account of some ignorant Cossacks is
presented as a corrective to the report of educated navigators, and it
is also indicated that the garrison at Fort Anadyr had exact knowledge
of the northern coast of the Chukchee peninsula, something it did not
have at all.[30]

But in order to understand Müller, it is necessary to make a slight
digression. When Bering, in the summer of 1729, was on his return to
St. Petersburg, he met, between Okhotsk and Yakutsk, the Cossack chief
Shestakoff, who by the aid of Bering's ships intended to undertake
an extensive military expedition in the eastern seas. He soon fell,
however, in an engagement, but his comrade Captain Pavlutski led an
invasion into the land of the Chukchees. From Fort Anadyr he went
northward to the Arctic Ocean, thence along the coast toward the east,
then across the Chukchee peninsula to the Pacific. A more detailed
account than this cannot be given, for his route as indicated on
Müller's map is an impossible one. This much, however, seems to be
irrefutable: shortly after having crossed the Chukchee peninsula in a
southerly direction, he came to a sea, and this sea could be no other
than Bering Sea.[31] Moreover, it appears from the account, that he was
on his return to the fort. Müller goes on to say: "From here he sent
a part of his men in boats, whither he himself with the majority of
the party proceeded by land, following the shore, which at this place
extended toward the southeast. Those in boats were so near the shore
that they reported to him every evening. On the seventh day, the party
in boats came to the mouth of a river, and twelve days later, to the
mouth of another. At about seven miles from this point there extends
eastward far into the sea a headland, which is first mountainous, but
then flat, as far as the eye can reach. This headland is probably
what induced Captain Bering to turn back. Among the mountains on this
promontory there is one which, as already noted, is by the natives of
Anadyrskoi Ostrog called Serdze Kamen. From here Pavlutski started for
the interior." On this loose reasoning rests Serdze Kamen,--a process
of reasoning which attempts to show clearly that this headland must be
a point on the Pacific coast, and that it must have lain many days'
journey west of Bering Strait. But how is it possible, that Müller
could have been so confused as to make such strange blunders? The case
could not thus have presented itself to him. On the basis of Deshneff's
journey and Pavlutski's cruise, he formed in his imagination a picture
of northeastern Siberia, in which the Chukchee peninsula assumed a
double horned shape, or--as Von Baer expresses it--resembled a bull's

He used Bering's chart as a foundation when he had no other, but he
omitted Cape Chukotskoi, and on the 66th parallel he inserted Serdze
Kamen. From this point he made the coast recede, first westward, then
northward and eastward to a large circular peninsula situated between
72°-75° north latitude, which he called Chukotskoi Noss. It is this
imaginary peninsula which Pavlutski crosses. He accordingly reaches the
Pacific coast to the north of Bering Strait, and in this way Müller
succeeds in locating Serdze Kamen north of the strait. Hence, according
to Müller's opinion, Bering had never doubled the northeastern corner
of Asia, and he had never been out of the Pacific. "And although the
coast beyond Serdze Kamen," he says, "turns westward, it forms only
a large bay, and the coast-line again takes a northerly direction to
Chukotskoi Noss, a large peninsula in a latitude of 70° or more, and
where it would first be possible to say authoritatively that the two
hemispheres were not connected. But how could all this have been known
on the ship? The correct idea of the shape of the land of the Chukchees
and the peninsula bearing the same name, is due to geographical
investigations instituted by me at Yakutsk in 1736 and 1737."

Blinded by the archival dust of Yakutsk, Müller confused everything.
Cape Chukotskoi, which Bering had found to be in latitude 64° 18' N.,
was placed beyond 72° N.; Bering's most northerly point, which lay
far out in the sea, was changed to a headland in latitude 66° N.,
and, misled by some vague reports from the garrison at Fort Anadyr, he
called this point Serdze Kamen. Everything is guess-work!

But where did Müller get his Serdze Kamen, and what place was it
that the garrison at Fort Anadyr called by this name? For of the
extreme northeast part of the peninsula, or the details of Bering's
voyage--especially as early as in 1730--they could have had no
knowledge. The explanation is not difficult. On Russian maps of the
last century, those of Pallas and Billings, for example,[32] there is
found on the eastern shore of St. Kresta Bay, somewhat northeast of the
mouth of the Anadyr, a cape which bears the name of Serdze Kamen. As
Bering does not have this name, and as it seems to have been known as
early as at the time of Pavlutski, it must have originated either with
him and the Cossacks at the fort, or with the Chukchees. Sauer relates
the following concerning the origin of the name: "Serdze Kamen is a
very remarkable mountain projecting into the bay at Anadyr. The land
side of this mountain has many caves, to which the Chukchees fled when
Pavlutski attacked them, and from where they killed a large number of
Russians as they passed. Pavlutski was consequently obliged to seek
reinforcements at Anadyr, where he told that the Chukchees shot his
men from the _heart_ of the _cliff_, and hence it received the name of
Serdze Kamen, or the heart-cliff." But this account, which finds no
authority whatever in Sauer's work, is severely criticised by Lütke,
who calls attention to the fact that the Chukchees called a mountain on
the eastern shore of the St. Kresta Bay _Linglin Gaï_, that is, the
heart-cliff. It is quite improbable that they got this name from the
Cossacks in Anadyrsk, and hence we here undoubtedly have the origin of
the name.[33]

In Steller's various works one can see what confused ideas concerning
Bering's first expedition the academists who wrote his history really
had. They succeeded in bringing confusion into the simplest questions,
and, as a result, wrecked his reputation. In Steller's description
of Kamchatka, where he enumerates the headlands of the peninsula, a
remarkable statement is found, which offers excellent proof of the
correctness of Lütke's opinion.[34] The situation of Serdze Kamen
between East Cape and the mouth of the Anadyr is here distinctly given.
Hence, according to his opinion, Bering reached no farther than to St.
Kresta Bay, and the sarcastic remarks plainly show Steller's partisan
view.[35] Müller was not so rash. When he moved Cape Chukotskoi half
a dozen degrees farther to the north, he moved Serdze Kamen also, and
_carried it from St. Kresta Bay up into Bering Strait_.

In this cool move he was fortunate enough to get into a closer
agreement with Bering's determination of latitude, but unfortunately
hit upon new difficulties. His own map is based upon Bering's, as he
had no other, but Bering's voyage did not, as is well known, end at any
headland. Neither his chart nor his journal supports any such theory,
and hence Müller, either accidentally or purposely, does not in his
book have a word about the voyage from the 10th to the 15th of August,
and on his map (1758) Bering's "track" is broken off near East Cape.
This headland is Müller's Serdze Kamen,[36] a fact of which even a very
cursory glance at Müller's and Bering's maps will convince any one. But
even Bering had located the northeastern corner of Asia (East Cape) a
few minutes too far northward, and in order to make the map coincide
with his theory and with Bering's computations, Müller made the error
greater, without, however, fixing it at Bering's turning-point, but at
67° 18' N. lat., where, according to Bering's and his own account, it
ought to be.

Thus matters stood up to the time of Cook's third voyage. But as Cook
had on board, not only Müller's book and map in an English translation,
but also Bering's map, and an excellent treatise by Dr. Campbell in
Harris's Collection of Voyages, he could pass judgment while at the
place in question. As a matter of course he upholds Bering. Hence, it
was a natural result that Serdze Kamen, which, as we have seen, was
to coincide with the most northerly point reached by Bering, could no
longer retain its position in the latitude of East Cape, which was more
than a degree too far south; and in order to make Müller's account
intelligible, Captain Cook had the choice between entirely expunging
the name, or bringing it up to an approximately correct latitude. Cook
chose the latter; and to this mistake on his part it is due that the
last splinter of Müller's vain structure passed into the cartography
of the future. In latitude 67° 3' N., Cook found a projecting
promontory with many crags and peaks, and "possibly one or another of
them may be heart-shaped. This peak we have, on Müller's authority,
called Serdze Kamen."[37]

Here then we have the third Serdze Kamen, and we can now see how it
has wandered about the northeast corner of Asia. As a matter of fact,
it is situated in a latitude nearly the same as the most northerly
point reached by Bering, but unfortunately this does not at all answer
Müller's description. It does not project eastward into the sea, but on
the contrary, its main direction is toward the northwest. At the base
of this headland, the coast does not in a striking manner extend toward
the west, but continues in its former direction. Nor does it consist of
steep rocks and a low point extending farther than the eye can reach.
In other words, the present Serdze Kamen has nothing whatever to do
either with Bering's voyage or Müller's description.[38]

To this period of Bering's history another observation must be made.
In his excellent treatise entitled, "What Geography owes to Peter
the Great," Von Baer tries to show that Bering turned back in his
course, not on the 15th, but on the 16th of August, and that too,
notwithstanding the fact that both Bering and Müller, in print, give
the former date,--yes, notwithstanding the fact that Von Baer himself
had an autograph card from Bering which likewise gives the 15th. In
his criticism on this point, Von Baer based his statements on those
extracts of the ship's journal referred to above, which as we have
seen give the 16th of August, and this, in his opinion, must be
decisive. But the disagreement in these sources is only an apparent
one. As we already have noted, Bering reckoned the day from 12 o'clock
at noon. Hence the journal's 16th of August began at noon on the 15th
of August, and as Bering turned back at 3 o'clock in the afternoon,
this occurred on the 15th of August according to the calendar, and on
the 16th of August according to the artificial day of the journal. Thus
Von Baer's correction is based on a misunderstanding.[39] That this
view of the question is correct is seen also from that passage in the
journal where the Island of St. Lawrence is mentioned. According to the
journal this island was passed at 2 o'clock P.M. on the 11th of August,
and Berch, to whom we are indebted for information concerning Bering's
day, is, strange to say, surprised to think that Bering named the
island in honor of the saint of the preceding day, notwithstanding that
the 11th at 2 o'clock P. M. is in reality, according to the calendar
day, the 10th of August, St. Lawrence Day. The first twelve hours of
the journal's day belong to the preceding day. Hence, Bering turned
back August 15, at 3 o'clock P. M.


[16] Note 10.

[17] Note 11.

[18] Note 12.

[19] Note 13.

[20] Note 14.

[21] Note 15.

[22] Note 16.

[23] Note 17.

[24] Note 18.

[25] Note 19.

[26] Note 20.

[27] Note 21.

[28] Note 22.

[29] Note 23.

[30] Note 24.

[31] Note 25.

[32] Note 26.

[33] Note 27.

[34] The passage is: "_Das Tschuktschische Vorgebürge in Nord Osten_,
(elsewhere he locates it in latitude 66° N.), _ein anderes 2 Grad
ohngefaehr südlicher, Sirza-kamen, der Herzstein gennent, der auch
bey der ersten Expedition der herzlichen Courage der See-Officier
die Gränzen gesetzt. Ohnweit demselben ist eine sehr groze Einbucht
und guter Hafen, auch vor die grösesten Fahrzenge; Das Anadirskische

[35] Note 28.

[36] Note 29.

[37] Note 30.

[38] Note 31 and Map I. in Appendix.

[39] Note 32.



When Bering on the 2d of September, 1728, entered the mouth of the
river Kamchatka, he met the Fortuna, which had made a voyage around the
Kamchatka Peninsula. Who commanded the vessel on this voyage, can not
be ascertained.

Bering wintered at the fort. On the days that it was light, the men
were busy at work or receiving instructions, and thus the winter passed
without any remarkable occurrences or misfortunes. Spangberg, however,
was obliged, on account of illness, to go to Bolsheretsk.[40]

At lower Kamchatskoi Ostrog, Bering became convinced that there must
be a large wooded country not far to the east. The waves were more
like those of a sea than of an ocean. The driftwood did not indicate
the flora of eastern Asia, and the depth of the sea grew less toward
the north; the east wind brought drift-ice to the mouth of the river
after three days, the north wind, on the other hand, after five days.
The birds of passage came to Kamchatka from the east. The reports of
the natives corroborated his inferences. They declared that they were
able, in very clear weather, to see land in the east (Bering Island),
and that in the year 1715 a man had stranded there, who said that his
native land was far to the east and had large rivers and forests with
very high trees. All this led Bering to believe that a large country
lay toward the northeast at no very great distance.

In the summer or 1729, he started out to find this country, leaving
the mouth of the Kamchatka for the east, July 6. If the wind had been
favourable, he would very soon have reached Bering Island, where twelve
years later he was buried. He must have been very near this island,
invisible to him, however, on account of a fog; but on the 8th of
July he was struck by a severe storm, which the frail vessel and the
weather-worn rigging could not defy, and hence on the 9th, he headed
for the southern point of Kamchatka. But also on this voyage he did
geographical service by determining the location of the peninsula and
the northern Kurile Islands, as well as exploring the channel between
them, and thus finding for the Russian mariner a new and easier route
to Kamchatka. Berch says, that although Bering had adverse winds on the
voyage to Bolsheretsk, all his computations are quite accurate; the
difference in latitude between the latter place and lower Kamchatka
Ostrog is given as 6° 29', which is very nearly correct. Bering
likewise determined the location of Cape Lopatka at 51° N. lat.

At Bolsheretsk Bering collected his men, distributed provisions and
powder, left the Fortuna with a crew of one corporal and eleven men,
and on the 14th of July steered for Okhotsk. After a fortunate, but not
otherwise remarkable, journey, he reached St. Petersburg on the 1st of
March, 1730. "From the perusal of his ship's journal," says Berch, "one
becomes convinced that our famous Bering was an extraordinarily able
and skillful officer; and if we consider his defective instruments,
his great hardships, and the obstacles that had to be overcome, his
observations and the great accuracy of his journal deserve the highest
praise. He was a man who did Russia honor."

Bering had thus done good work in the service of Asiatic geography.
He had shown that he possessed an explorer's most important
qualification--never to make positive statements where there is no
definite knowledge. By virtue of his extensive travels in northeastern
Asia, his scientific qualifications, his ability to make careful,
accurate observations, and his own astronomical determinations, and
by virtue of his direct acquaintance with Kosyrefsky's and Lushin's
works, he was in a position to form a more correct opinion than any
contemporary concerning this part of the earth. In spite of these
great advantages in his favor, his work was rejected by the leading
authorities in St. Petersburg. It is true that Bering found sincere
support in the able and influential Ivan Kirilovich Kiriloff, but
to no one else could he turn for a just and competent judge. The
great Russian empire had not yet produced a scientific aristocracy.
The Academy of Science, which had been founded five or six years
previous, was not composed of able scholars, but of a number of
more or less talented contestants for honor and fame,--of men who
occupied a prominent yet disputed position in a foreign and hostile
country--young, hot-headed Germans and Frenchmen who had not yet
achieved complete literary recognition. Such people are stern and
severe judges. Bering was unfortunate enough to fall into the hands
of the German Gerhard Fr. Müller and the Frenchman Joseph Nicolas De

Although Müller had not yet seen Siberia, and although it was
not until ten years later that he succeeded in building that
geographical card-house which Captain Cook so noiselessly blew down,
he nevertheless, even at that time, on every occasion expressed the
opinion that Bering had not reached the northeast point of Asia, and
that his voyage had consequently not accomplished its purpose. De
l'Isle was Bering's intellectual antipode. As a geographer he delighted
in moving about on the borderland of the world's unexplored regions.
His element was that of vaguest conjecture,--the boldest combinations
of known and unknown; and even as an old man he did not shrink from
the task of constructing, from insufficient accounts of travels and
apocryphal sailor-stories, a map of the Pacific, of which not a
single line has been retained. He overstrained himself on the fame
of his deceased brother, whose methods, inclinations, and valuable
geographical collections he had inherited, but unfortunately not
that intuitive insight which made Guillaume De l'Isle the leading
geographer of his age. Hence, as a geographer, he was merely an echo of
his brother.

One of Guillaume De l'Isle's most famous essays had been on the island
of Yezo. In 1643 the stadtholder of Batavia, the able Van Diemen,
sent the ships Kastrikon and Breskens under the command of Martin de
Vries and Hendrick Corneliszoon Schaep to Japan for the purpose of
navigating the east coast of the island of Nipon (Hondo), and thence
go in search of America by sailing in a northwesterly direction to the
45th degree of latitude; but in case they did not find America, which
people continued to believe lay in these regions, they were to turn
toward the northeast and seek the coast of Asia on the 56th degree
of latitude. De Vries partly carried out his chimerical project. At
40° north latitude he saw the coast of Nipon, two degrees farther
north, the snow-capped mountains of Yezo, and thence sailed between
the two Kuriles lying farthest to the south, which he called Staaten
Eiland and Kompagniland. He then continued his voyage into the Sea
of Okhotsk to 48° north latitude, where he turned about, saw Yezo
in latitude 45°, but came, without noticing La Perouse Strait, over
to Saghalin, which he considered a part of Yezo, and as he followed
the coast of Saghalin to Cape Patience in latitude 48°, he thought
Yezo a very extensive island on the eastern coast of Asia. Through
the cartography of the seventeenth century, for example Witsen's and
Homann's Atlas, but especially through Guillaume De l'Isle's globes
and maps, these erroneous ideas were scattered over the earth, and,
when the first accounts of Kamchatka, without being accompanied by
a single astronomical determination, reached Europe, many believed
that this land was identical with Yezo. But as De Vries had left some
determinations of latitude and longitude which showed that the island
must be very near Japan, some went even so far as to suppose that it
was contiguous to Nipon; indeed, Guillaume De l'Isle's essay attempted
to prove this. Thus three lands were made one, while De Vries's
Staaten Eiland and Kompagniland, which could find no place in this
series, were forced eastward into the Pacific as large tracts of land
separated from Kamchatka-Yezo and from each other by narrow straits.
But this is not all. The Portuguese cosmographer Texeïra had in 1649,
in these same regions, indicated a coast projecting far to the east
toward America, seen by Juan de Gama on a voyage to New Spain from the
Philippine Islands. This Gamaland was now described as a continuation
of Kompagniland. In Homann's Atlas, 1709, it is represented as a part
of America, and Guillaume De l'Isle varied on the theme in a different

Unfortunately these ideas held sway in the scientific world when
Bering, in 1730, returned. Furthermore, scholars thought these ideas
were confirmed by Swedish prisoners of war who had returned from
Siberia, especially by the famous Tabbert, or Strahlenberg, as he was
later called, whose various imaginary chart-outlines had been adopted
in Homann's Atlas, 1727, and in other West European geographical works
then in vogue.[42]

Bering returned. His sober accounts and accurate maps, in which there
was nothing imaginary whatever, were now to take up the fight against
these prejudices. Bering declared that he had sailed around Kamchatka
without having seen anything of these lands, although he had--in a
different direction, however--noticed signs of land. On his map,
Kamchatka was represented as a definitely defined region, and hence
Guillaume De l'Isle's structure had received its first blow, in case
Bering's representations should be accepted. But Bering's reputation
had been undermined in still another direction. The above-mentioned
Cossack chief Shestakoff had, during his sojourn in Russia, distributed
various rough contour sketches of northeastern Asia. This brave
warrior, however, knew just as little about wielding a pen as he did a
pencil. The matter of a few degrees more or less in some coast-lines
did not seriously trouble him. Even his own drawings did not agree.
Northeast of the Chukchee peninsula he had sketched an extensive
country, which Bering had not seen.

It is characteristic of Joseph De l'Isle that he accepted both
Shestakoff and Strahlenberg, and as late as in 1753 still clung to
their outlines. In the first place, it satisfied his family pride to
be able to maintain his brother's views of the cartography of these
regions (and of his views Strahlenberg's were but an echo), and it
moreover satisfied his predisposition to that which was vague and
hypothetical. At first De l'Isle succeeded in carrying out his wishes,
and in 1737 the Academy published a map of Asia in which it would prove
extremely difficult to find any trace of Bering's discoveries.[43]
It was accordingly quite the proper thing to consider Bering's first
expedition wholly, or at least to a great extent, unsuccessful. In
the literature of that day there are evidences of this, especially in
Steller's writings. He treats Bering with scornful superiority, which
is particularly out of place, as he shows himself a poor judge in
geographical matters.[44] Kiriloff, who in his general map of Russia in
1734[45] unreservedly accepted Bering's map, was the only man who gave
him due recognition. The Academy could not persuade itself to make use
of the only scientifically obtained outline map in existence of the
remotest regions of the empire, until Bering, many years afterwards,
had won full recognition in Paris, Nuremberg, and London. Bering's map
was made in Moscow in 1731, and the Russian government presented it
to the king of Poland,[46] who gave it to the Jesuit father Du Halde.
He had it printed and inserted in D'Anville's _Nouvelle Atlas de la
Chine_, a supplement to his large work on China, to which we have
several times referred.[47] Of this work Dr. Campbell later gave an
account in Harris's Collection of Voyages, and it was, furthermore, the
basis of the better class of geographical works on eastern Asia of last
century until Captain Cook's day. A copy of the eastern half of the map
will be found in the appendix to this treatise.


[40] A port on the southern coast of Kamchatka.

[41] See Maps II. and III.

[42] Note 33.

[43] Note 34.

[44] Note 35.

[45] Note 36.

[46] Note 37.

[47] Note 38.





Arctic exploration has a bewitching power over its devotees. Bering and
his companions did not escape the enchantment. Hardly had they returned
from a five years' sojourn in the extremest corner of the world, when
they declared themselves willing to start out again. As they had met
with so much doubt and opposition from scholars,--had learned that
the world's youngest marine lacked the courage to recognize its own
contributions to science, and, furthermore, as the Admiralty thought it
had given strong reasons for doubting Bering's results,[48] he proposed
to make his future explorations on a larger scale and remove all doubt,
by charting the whole of this disputed part of the globe.

April 30, 1730, only two months after his return, he presented two
plans to the Admiralty. These have been found and published by Berch,
and are of the greatest importance in judging of Bering's true relation
to the Great Northern Expedition. In the first of these propositions
he sets forth a series of suggestions for the administration of
East Siberia, and for a better utilization of its resources. He
desired, among other things, missionary work among the Yakuts, better
discipline among the East Siberian Cossacks, more honesty among the
yassak-collectors, the opening of iron mines at Okhotsk and Udinsk, and
various other things. But it was never his intention to carry out these
propositions himself, and it was a great mistake for the government to
burden his instructions with such purely administrative work.

His second proposition is incomparably more interesting. In this he
indicates the general outline of his Great Northern Expedition, the
greatest geographical enterprise that the world has hitherto known.
This document shows that he was the originator of the plan, something
that has been contradicted, and but for this document might still
stand contradicted. He proposed to start out from Kamchatka to explore
and chart the western coast of America and establish commercial
relations with that country, thence to visit Japan and Amoor for the
same purpose, and finally to chart either by land or sea the Arctic
coast of Siberia,--namely, from the Obi to the Lena.[49] Through
these three enterprises and his former expedition, it was Bering's
object to fill the vacant space on his chart between the known West
and the known East,--between the Kara Sea and the Japan Islands. He
refused to corroborate his first observations by again visiting the
same localities, and he rightly concluded, that absolute proof of the
separation of the continents would be ascertained if the American coast
were charted.

The political situation in the empire favored the adoption of Bering's
plans. The Duchess of Courland, Anna Ivanovna, had just (1730) ascended
the throne. With her the foreigners and Peter's reform party again
came into power, and with much more zeal than skill, they sought to
continue Peter's work. Anna aimed to shine in Europe as the ruler of a
great power, and in Russia as a West European queen. Europe was to be
awed by Russian greatness, and Russia by European wisdom. In one of his
high-flown speeches Czar Peter had given assurance that science would
forsake its abodes in West Europe, and in the fullness of time cast a
halo of immortal glory around the name of Russia.

It was necessary to speed this time. Anna and her coadjutors had an
insatiable desire for the splendor and exterior luster of culture.
Like upstarts in wealth they sought to surround themselves with some
of that glory which only gray-haired honor can bestow. One of the
surest ways to this glory was through the equipment of scientific
expeditions. They had at their disposal an academy of science, a fleet,
and the resources of a mighty empire. The sacrifice of a few thousand
human lives troubled them but little, and they exerted themselves to
make the enterprise as large and sensational as possible. Bering's
above-mentioned proposition was taken as a foundation for these plans,
but when, after the lapse of two years, his proposition left the
various departments of the government--the Senate, the Academy, and
the Admiralty--it had assumed such proportions that he found great
difficulty in recognizing it.

After having on April 30, 1730, submitted to the Admiralty his new
proposition, together with the accounts and reports of his first
expedition, Bering was sent to Moscow, where Anna maintained her court
during the first few years of her reign. Here he laid his plans before
the Senate, and made the map before referred to; but all the leading
men were then too much occupied with court intrigues to be able to give
his plans any of their attention. Separated from his family, he wearied
of life in Moscow, and on January 5, 1732, the Senate gave him leave
of absence to go to St. Petersburg, on condition that Chaplin and the
steward would conclude the reports. Moreover, the Senate ordered that
the Admiralty should pay Bering's claims against the government for his
services. In view of the hardships he had endured, he received 1,000
rubles, double the amount to which he was entitled according to the
regulations of the department. Almost simultaneously he was promoted,
in regular succession, to the position of _capitain-commandeur_ in the
Russian fleet, the next position below that of rear-admiral.

In the spring of 1732, Anna, Biron, and Ostermann had succeeded in
crushing the Old Russian opposition. The leaders of this party,
especially the family of Dolgoruki, had been either banished to
Siberia or scattered about in the provinces and in fortresses, and now
there was nothing to hinder the government in pursuing its plans. As
early as April 17, the Empress[50] ordered that Bering's proposition
should be executed, and charged the Senate to take the necessary
steps for this purpose. The Senate, presided over by Ivan Kiriloff,
an enthusiastic admirer of Peter the Great, acted with dispatch. On
May 2, it promulgated two ukases, in which it declared the objects of
the expedition, and sought to indicate the necessary means. Although
the Senate here in the main followed Bering's own proposition and
made a triple expedition (an American, a Japanese, and an Arctic), it
nevertheless betrayed a peculiar inclination to burden the chief of
the expedition with tasks most remote from his own original plans. It
directed him not only to explore the Shantar Islands and reach the
Spanish possessions in America, something that Bering had never thought
of, but also included in its ukase a series of recommendations for the
development of Siberia,--recommendations which Bering had previously
made to the government, and which had already provoked some definite
efforts, as the exiled Pissarjeff, a former officer of the Senate, had
been removed to Okhotsk to develop that region and extend the maritime
relations on the Pacific.

He seems, however, not to have accomplished anything, and the Senate
thought it feasible to burden Bering with a part of this task. He
was directed to supply Okhotsk with more inhabitants, to introduce
cattle-raising on the Pacific coast, to found schools in Okhotsk for
both elementary and nautical instruction, to establish a dock-yard in
this out-of-the-way corner, to transport men and horses to Yudomskaya
Krest, and to establish iron-works at Yakutsk, Udinsk, and other
places. But this was simply the beginning of the avalanche, and as it
rolled along down through the Admiralty and Academy, it assumed most
startling dimensions. These authorities aspired to nothing less than
raising all human knowledge one step higher. The Admiralty desired
the expedition to undertake the nautical charting of the Old World
from Archangel to Nipon--even to Mexico; and the Academy could not
be satisfied with anything less than a scientific exploration of all
northern Asia. As a beginning, Joseph Nicolas De l'Isle, professor of
astronomy at the Academy, was instructed to give a graphic account of
the present state of knowledge of the North Pacific, and in a memoir to
give Bering instructions how to find America from the East. The Senate
also decreed that the former's brother, Louis, surnamed La Croyère, an
adventurer of somewhat questionable character, should accompany the
expedition as astronomer. Thus decree after decree followed in rapid
succession. On December 28, the Senate issued a lengthy ukase, which,
in sixteen paragraphs, outlined _in extenso_ the nautico-geographical
explorations to be undertaken by the expedition. Commodore Bering and
Lieut. Chirikoff, guided by the instructions of the Academy, were to
sail to America with two ships for the purpose of charting the American
coast. They were to be accompanied by La Croyère, who, with the
assistance of the surveyors Krassilnikoff and Popoff, was to undertake
a series of local observations through Siberia, along several of the
largest rivers of the country and in its more important regions, across
the Pacific, and also along the coast of the New World. With three
ships Spangberg was to sail to the Kurile Islands, Japan, and the still
more southerly parts of Asia, while simultaneously the coast from
Okhotsk to Uda, to Tugur, to the mouth of the Amoor, and the coasts of
the Shantar Islands and Saghalin were to be charted.

Even these tasks exceeded all reasonable demands, and not until several
generations later did Cook, La Perouse, and Vancouver succeed in
accomplishing what the Russian Senate in a few pen-strokes directed
Bering to do. And yet, not until the government touched the Arctic
side of this task, did it entirely lose sight of all reason. Its
instructions to Bering were, not only to chart the coast of the Old
World from the Dwina to the Pacific, to explore harbors and estuaries
along this coast, to describe the country and study its natural
resources, especially its mineral wealth, but also to dispatch an
expedition to the Bear Islands, off the mouth of the Kolyma, and to see
to it that his earlier trip to the Chukchee peninsula was repeated,
besides sailing from there to America, as the results of his former
voyage "were unsatisfactory," reliable information concerning that
country having been received from the Cossack Melnikoff.

All these expeditions were to start out from the great Siberian
rivers,--from the Dwina to the Obi with two vessels under the charge
of the Admiralty; from the Obi and Lena with three twenty-four-oared
boats, two of which were to meet between these two rivers, and the
third was to sail around Bering's Peninsula (this Reclus calls the
Chukchee peninsula), or, if America proved to be connected with that
country, it was to attempt to find European colonies. The orders of the
Senate were, furthermore, to the effect that surveyors should be sent
out in advance for the preliminary charting of these river-mouths, and
to erect light-houses, establish magazines for convenient relays, and
procure provisions and other necessaries,--very excellent directions,
all of which, however, were so many meaningless words after they had
left the government departments. Our age, which still has in mind the
Franklin expeditions--the English parallel--is able to form an idea of
these gigantic demands, and yet the Senate did not hesitate to load
the organization of all this upon the shoulders of one man. Bering was
made chief of all the enterprises east of the Ural Mountains. At the
Obi and the Lena, at Okhotsk and Kamchatka, he was to furnish ships,
provisions, and transportation.

But in spite of all that was vague and visionary in these plans,
they had nevertheless a certain homogeneity. They were all nautical
expeditions for nautical purposes and nautico-geographical
investigations. Then the Academy added its demands, making everything
doubly complicated. It demanded a scientific exploration of all
Siberia and Kamchatka,--not only an account of these regions based
on astronomical determinations and geodetic surveys, on minute
descriptions and artistically executed landscape pictures, on
barometric, thermometric, and aerometric observations, as well as
investigations in all the branches of natural history, but it demanded
also a detailed presentation of the ethnography, colonization,
and history of the country, together with a multitude of special
investigations in widely different directions. The leading spirits
in these enterprises were two young and zealous Germans, the chemist
Johann Georg Gmelin and the historian Gerhard Friedrich Müller,
twenty-eight and twenty-four years of age respectively, members of the
Academy, and later, highly respected scholars. Müller was a personal
friend of Bering, and through him got a desire to participate in the

Kiriloff, the secretary of the Senate, himself a successful student of
geography, supported the efforts of the Academy, and most generously
gratified all the exaggerated demands that only imperious and
inexperienced devotees of science could present. Indeed, Bering could
not but finally consider himself fortunate in escaping a sub-expedition
to Central Asia, one of Kiriloff's pet plans, which the latter
afterwards took upon himself to carry out. The Academic branch of the
expedition, which thus came to consist of the astronomer La Croyère,
the physicist Gmelin (the elder), and the historian Müller, was right
luxuriously equipped. It was accompanied by two landscape painters,
one surgeon, one interpreter, one instrument-maker, five surveyors,
six scientific assistants, and fourteen body-guards. Moreover, this
convoy grew like an avalanche, as it worked its way into Siberia. La
Croyère had nine wagon-loads of instruments, among them telescopes
thirteen and fifteen feet in length. These Academical gentlemen had
at least thirty-six horses, and on the large rivers, they could
demand boats with cabins. They carried with them a library of several
hundred volumes, not only of scientific and historical works in their
specialties, but also of the Latin classics and such light reading
as Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels. Besides, they had seventy
reams of writing paper and an enormous supply of artists' colors,
draughting materials and apparatus. All archives were to be open to
them, all Siberian government authorities were to be at their service
and furnish interpreters, guides, and laborers. The Professors, as
they were called, constituted an itinerant academy. They drafted
their own instructions, and no superior authority took upon itself to
make these subservient to the interests of the expedition as a whole.
From February, 1734, they held one or two weekly meetings and passed
independent resolutions. It became a part of Bering's task to move
this cumbersome machine, this learned republic, from St. Petersburg
to Kamchatka, to care for their comforts and conveniences, and render
possible the flank movements and side sallies that either scientific
demands or their own freaks of will might dictate. In the original
instructions such directions were by no means few. But Bering had no
authority over these men. They were willing to recognize his authority
only when they needed his assistance. None of them except Bering and
his former associates had any idea of the mode and conditions of travel
in that barbarous country. That there should be lack of understanding
between men with such different objects in view as academists and
naval officers, is not very strange. Their only bond of union was the
Senate's senseless ukase. If it had been the purpose of the government
to exhibit a human parallel to the "happy families" of menageries, it
could hardly have acted differently. In all his movements Bering was
hampered by this academical deadweight. The Professors not only showed
a lack of appreciation of Bering's efforts in their behalf, but they
also stormed him with complaints, filled their records with them, and
concluded them--characteristically enough--with a resolution to prefer
formal charges against him before the Senate.

Only a new state, as the Russian then was, only a government that
recently had seen the will of one energetic man turn topsy-turvy a
whole people's mode of life, and yet had preserved a fanciful faith in
Peter the Great's teachings--his supreme disregard for obstacles,--only
such a government could even think of heaping such mountains of
enterprises one upon the other, or demand that any one man, and a
foreigner at that, should carry them into execution. Peter's spirit
undoubtedly hovered over these plans, but the marble sarcophagus in the
church of St. Peter and St. Paul had long since received his earthly
remains, and without his personal energy the Senate's plans were but
the projects of a dazzled fancy. On paper the Senate might indeed refer
Bering to various ways and means; it might enjoin upon the Siberian
authorities to do everything in their power to promote the progress of
the various expeditions; it might direct its secretaries to prepare
a very humane declamation denouncing the practice of any violence
against, or oppression of, the weak nomadic tribes in the East; but
it could not by a few pen-strokes increase the natural resources of
Siberia, or change the unwillingness of the local authorities to accede
to the inordinate demands which the nautical expedition necessarily
had to make, nor could it make roads in the wild forest-regions where
only the Yakut and Tunguse roamed about. The Senate's humanitarian
phrases were of but little significance to the explorers when it was
found necessary to compel the nomads of the East to supply what the
government had failed to furnish. The Senate had ventured so near the
extreme limits of the possible, that it could not but end by crossing
the border and demanding the impossible. These numerous expeditions,
scattered over half a continent, were exposed to so many unforeseeable
accidents and misfortunes, that the government, in order to render
support and retain its control, would necessarily have to be in regular
communication. But east of Moscow there was no mail service. Hence the
government instructed Bering to establish, on consultation with the
local authorities, postal communication, partly monthly and partly
bi-monthly, from Moscow to Kamchatka, to the Chinese border by way of
Irkutsk, and by a new route to Uda,--as though such a matter could
be accomplished through consultation. The Senate might have known,
and in fact did know, that in the mountainous forest-region between
Yakutsk and Okhotsk (a distance of about seven hundred miles) there
was but one single Russian hut, and that all the requisites for a mail
service--men, horses, and roads--demanded unlimited means and most
extensive preparations.

A number of plans and propositions of minor importance are here
omitted. The object has been to show, in a succinct review, the
origin of the Great Northern Expedition, its enormous compass, and
the grouping of its various enterprises about Vitus Bering as its
chief. Von Baer classes the tasks to be accomplished by Bering, each
of which demanded separately equipped expeditions, under seven heads:
namely, astronomical observations and determinations in Siberia,
physico-geographical explorations, historic-ethnographical studies,
the charting of the Arctic coast, the navigation of the East Siberian
coast, and the discovery of Japan and America. This writer adds that
no other geographical enterprise, not even the charting of China by
the Jesuits, Mackenzie's travels, or Franklin's expeditions, can in
greatness or sacrifice be compared with the gigantic undertakings that
were loaded upon Bering, and carried out by him.[51]

It would no doubt be wrong to ascribe the over-burdening of Bering's
plans to any one man, and for a foreign author, who but imperfectly
understands the Russian literature of that period, to do so, would be
more than foolish. Kiriloff, the secretary of the Senate, had great
zeal for geographical explorations, and did all in his power to further
the plans of Czar Peter. It has been proved that Bering's proposition
was presented after a conference with Kiriloff, and that as long as
he lived, he assisted Bering by word and deed. Furthermore, it seems
probable that, in order to promote the exploration of Siberia, he
prevented the Admiralty from sending Bering's expedition by sea south
of Africa. However, it is undoubtedly a fact that Bering's plan reached
its final proportions as a result of the discussions between Count
Ostermann, the influential courtier and statesman, (who evidently
landed in Russia in company with Bering in 1701), Soimonoff, an officer
of the Senate, Kiriloff, and Golovin, chief of the Admiralty, and these
men would hardly have consulted the opinions of Bering, who often and
most emphatically disapproved of the additions that had been made to
his plans. Moreover, as a result of the distrust which his first
expedition inspired in Russia, he was in an insecure and unfortunate
position. But he had reason to complain of other things. The gigantic
task assigned to him demanded a despotic will endowed with dictatorial
power. Bering lacked both, especially the latter.

The Senate exhausted itself in minute hints, directions, and
propositions, instead of issuing definite orders concerning the
necessary means. Unfortunately, too, numerous and exaggerated
complaints had been made in regard to the suffering which Bering's
first expedition had caused the Kamchatkans, and on this account
the government was foolish enough to bind the chief's hands, while
it simultaneously overloaded his shoulders. Through injudicious
instructions he was made dependent upon his subordinates. It was bad
enough that he was not to be permitted to take any decisive steps in
Siberia without first consulting and coming to an agreement with the
local authorities,--the governor of Tobolsk, the lieutenant-governor of
Irkutsk, and the voivode of Yakutsk. On account of the great distances
and the wretched roads such proceedings were well-nigh impossible. The
government should have known that these authorities only under the
most peremptory orders would comply with demands liable to exhaust
the resources of the country and ruin the thinly-populated and
poverty-stricken districts. This was, indeed, bad enough, but matters
were much aggravated when the Senate ordered him to take action in
all important questions, only after deliberation with his officers,
and to refer every loading measure to a commission. Such a method of
procedure seems to us entirely incomprehensible. But Sokoloff, who
was himself a Russian naval officer, says on this point, that the laws
of the empire, which at that time were in full force, required of
every superior officer that he should consult his subordinates before
inaugurating any new movement. In its instructions to Bering the Senate
expressly emphasized this decree of the law, and it actually went so
far as to order him, even in matters of comparative unimportance,
to seek the opinion of his Academical associates, and always act
in the strictest accordance with his Russian colleague Chirikoff's

The chiefs of the different branches of the expedition were of course
subject to the same regulation. In this way Bering was deprived of a
sovereign chief's power and authority, and it afforded him but little
reparation that the government gave him the power to reduce or promote
an officer,--only naval officers, however. Necessary regard for the
needs of the service and for his own principles forbade him to use this
weapon in that arbitrary manner which alone could have neutralized the
unfortunate influence of the government laws. Hence this feature of his
instructions, besides causing much delay, became a source of the most
incredible troubles and aggravations, which, as we shall see later,
laid him in his grave on the bleak coasts of Bering Island.

Everything carefully considered, it could have surprised no one if
the Northern Expedition had collapsed in its very greatness, and it
was without any doubt due to Bering that this did not happen. In many
respects Bering was unqualified to lead such an expedition into a
barbarous country, surrounded as he was with incapable, uneducated, and
corruptible assistants, pestered by calumniators and secret or avowed
enemies in every quarter, to whom the government seemed more disposed
to listen than to him. More just than arbitrary, more considerate
than hasty, more humane than his position permitted, he nevertheless
had one important quality, an honest, genuine, and tenacious spirit
of perseverance, and this saved the expedition from dissolution. The
government had sent him in pursuit of a golden chariot, and he found
more than the linchpin. The realization, however, was far from that
anticipated by the government. Many of the projects of the original
plan were but partially accomplished, and others were not even
attempted; but in spite of this, the results attained by Bering and his
associates will stand as boundary-posts in the history of geographical
discovery. Many of these men sealed their work with their lives, and
added a luster to the name of Russia,[52] which later explorers have


[48] Note 39.

[49] Note 40.

[50] H. H. Bancroft, Vol. XXXIII., p. 42, History of Alaska, San
Francisco, 1886, is in error when he states that this empress was
Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Anna Ivanovna, a daughter
of Peter the Great's half-brother Ivan, was at this time on the throne.
She reigned from 1730 to 1740. Elizabeth Petrovna did not become
empress until 1741.--TR.

[51] H. H. Bancroft, History of Alaska, p. 42, says: "The second
Kamchatka expedition ... was the most brilliant effort toward
scientific discovery which unto this time had been made by any

[52] Note 41.



In the early part of the year 1733, the expedition began to leave St.
Petersburg by detachments. It consisted of the chief Vitus Bering
(his Russian name was Ivan Ivanovich Bering), Captains Spangberg and
Chirikoff, eight lieutenants, sixteen mates, twelve physicians, seven
priests, skippers, stewards, various apprentices, ship-carpenters,
other workmen, soldiers and sailors,--in all about five hundred
and seventy men. Of these, three officers and one hundred and
fifty-seven men--a number which was greatly increased in Siberia--were
assigned duty in the Arctic expedition, the remainder in the Pacific
expeditions. In this estimate, the Academists, constituting an
expedition of thirty or forty men, are not considered. The list of
names of those engaged in these expeditions throws interesting light
on Russian social relations of that period. Over half of the officers,
many mates, and all of the physicians were foreigners. The Senate
sought to inspire the zeal of the officers by large increase of salary
and promotion in rank and service after a successfully completed
expedition, but the rank and file were to be forced to a performance
of their duties by threats of cruel punishments and a continued
stay in Siberia. It had been the intention to recruit the expedition
through the voluntary service of Russians, but the native officers
showed but little inclination in this direction, and it was found
necessary to fill the vacancies by draft. Van Haven assures us that
Bering's expedition was looked upon in St. Petersburg as a mild sort of

The necessary instruments and some provisions were obtained in
St. Petersburg. The naval officers were supplied with quadrants,
thermometers, and nocturnals, the surveyors with astrolabes and
Gunter's-chains, and the Academists were authorized to take from the
library of the Academy all the works they needed, and, at the expense
of the crown, to purchase such as the library did not contain. La
Croyère carried with him a whole magazine of instruments. For presents
to the natives two thousand rubles were appropriated. In N. Novgorod
and Kazan some other necessaries were obtained, but the enormous
ship-supplies and provisions, besides men, horses, barges and other
river boats, were to be provided by the Siberian towns and country

The Siberian authorities received orders to make great preparations.
They were to buy venison, fish, and cod liver oil, erect light-houses
and magazines along the Arctic coast, and dispatch commissions with
large transports to the Pacific coast, so as to enable Bering to begin
his work of discovery without delay. These preparations were to be
followed by efforts toward the founding of various works, such as iron
and salt works at Okhotsk, a smaller furnace at Yakutsk for the use
of the expedition, and, through the utilization of the saccharine
qualities of the "bear's claw,"[53] a distillery was also to be
established on the peninsula of Kamchatka. It is unnecessary to say
that all of these propositions were buried in the Siberian government

Calculations were made for a six years' expedition. The leaders of each
branch of the expedition were authorized to repeat any unsuccessful
adventure the succeeding summer. All were prepared for a long stay in
the extreme northeast--many, indeed, remained there forever--hence,
most of the officers, among them Bering and Spangberg, were accompanied
by their wives and children. On this account the expedition seemed more
than ever a national migration on a small scale.

The first start was made February 1, 1733. Spangberg, with some
laborers and the heaviest marine stores, went directly to Okhotsk to
expedite the ship-building on the Pacific coast. Lieutenant Ofzyn
went to Kazan to collect supplies. Bering started out March 18, in
order as quickly as possible to reach Tobolsk, whence the first Arctic
expedition was to be sent out. In the course of the summer, the
larger caravans arrived at this place. Simultaneously heavy supplies
were brought in from West Siberia by Bering's men. Here, also, the
construction of the vessel for the expedition, the shallop Tobol, was
begun. Only the Academists were yet in St. Petersburg, where they were
receiving the attention of the official world. At an audience, the
Empress bade them farewell in the most solemn manner. She allowed them
to kiss her hand, and assured them of her most gracious favor. On the
succeeding day, the other members of the imperial family manifested
similar sympathy. Then, however, the difficulties began. That these
heavily-laden gentlemen could not even in St. Petersburg secure
adequate means of transportation, makes quite a comical impression. On
this account they were detained until late in August, and they would no
doubt have been unable to reach Siberia in 1733, if Bering had not left
for them in Tver a conveniently equipped vessel, which carried them
the same autumn down the Volga to Kazan. They did not reach Tobolsk,
however, until January, 1734. Bering, who was to be supplied by them
with surveyors and instruments for his Arctic expedition, and who could
not, before their arrival, form an estimate of the size of his river
transports to be used in the spring, was obliged repeatedly and very
forcibly to urge them to make haste. Here the disagreements began,
and were continued concerning petty affairs, which history finds it
unnecessary to dwell upon.

On May 2, 1734, the Tobol was launched amid the firing of cannon, the
blare of trumpets, and the merry draining of goblets. The vessel had
a keel of 70 feet, was 15 feet wide, and 7 feet deep. It carried two
masts, some small cannon, and a crew of 56 men, among them first mate
Sterlegoff and two cartographers, under the command of Lieut. Ofzyn. As
the provincial government had secured neither magazines nor provisions,
nor attended to any other preparations on the Arctic coast, the
necessary supplies, which were to be stored north of Obdorsk, were
loaded on four rafts, which, with a force of 30 men, accompanied Ofzyn.
On May 14, he received his Admiralty instructions from Bering, and,
saluted by cannon, the _First Arctic Expedition_ stood up the Irtish
for the Polar seas.

Five days later, Bering, with the main command and the Academists, left
Tobolsk and took different routes for Yakutsk, which had been selected
as the central point for the future enterprises of the expedition. In
October, 1734, he arrived at this place, bringing with him a quantity
of materials. The next spring, Chirikoff came with the greater part of
the supplies, and during the year following, this dull Siberian city
was the scene of no little activity. On his arrival, however, Bering
found that no preparations whatever had been made for him. In spite
of instructions and orders from the government, nothing had been done
toward charting the Arctic coast or for the expediting of the heavily
loaded transports on the way to Okhotsk. Nor did Bering find that the
authorities were even kindly disposed toward him. Yet, in the course
of the next six months, he had two large ships built for the Arctic
expedition, and when his own supplies arrived by way of the central
Siberian river-route, described in the first part of this work, these
vessels, together with four barges, were equipped and furnished with
provisions, and in June, 1735, were ready for a start. These two
ships--the sloop Yakutsk, Lieut. Pronchisheff, first mate Chelyuskin,
surveyor Chekin, and about fifty men, and the decked boat Irkutsk,
Lieut. Peter Lassenius, with a surveyor, first mate, and also about
fifty men--had most difficult tasks to accomplish. The former was to
cruise from the mouth of the Lena, along the whole coast of the Taimyr
peninsula, and enter the mouth of the Yenisei. The latter was to follow
the Arctic coast in an easterly direction to the Bering peninsula,
cruise along its coast, and ascertain the relative positions of Asia
and America, and, if it was a geographical possibility, to sail down
to the peninsula of Kamchatka. He also had instructions to find the
islands off the mouth of the Kolyma (the Bear Islands). From this it
is evident that Lassenius's expedition was of the greater geographical
interest. Moreover, it had to do with one of the main questions of
Bering's whole activity--the discovery and charting of the North
Pacific--and hence it is not a mere accident that Bering selected for
this expedition one of his own countrymen, or that he assigned the
charting of northeastern Asia and the discovery of America and Japan,
to chiefs of Danish birth, Lassenius and Spangberg. Nothing is known of
the earlier life of Lassenius. In service he was the oldest of Bering's
lieutenants. Shortly before the departure of the expedition, he was
taken into the Russian fleet, and Gmelin says of him, that he was an
able and experienced naval officer, volunteered his services to the
expedition, and began his work with intrepidity. All attempts to trace
his birth and family relations have proved fruitless.

On the 30th of June, 1735, both expeditions left Yakutsk, and thus the
charting of the whole of the Arctic coast of Siberia was planned and
inaugurated by Bering himself. He could now apply all his energies to
the Pacific expeditions. He constructed a multitude of river-craft,
and erected barracks, magazines, winter-huts, and wharves along the
river-route to Okhotsk. In the vicinity of Yakutsk he established an
iron foundry and furnace, whence the various vessels were supplied
with anchors and other articles of iron. In fact, he made this place
the emporium for those heavy supplies that in the years 1735-36 were
brought from South and West Siberia, and which later were to be sent to

At Okhotsk the exiled Major-General Pissarjeff was in command. He had
been sent there as a government official, with authority on the Pacific
coast and in Kamchatka, to develop the country and pave the way for the
expeditions to follow, by making roads and harbors, erecting buildings
in Okhotsk, introducing agriculture,--in fact, make this coast fit for
human habitation. The government had given him ample power, but as he
accomplished nothing, he was succeeded by Captain Pavlutski as chief
in Kamchatka, and Pissarjeff was reduced to a sort of harbor-master in
Okhotsk. A command that had been sent to his assistance under first
mate Bireff, he nearly starved to death; the men deserted and the town
remained the same rookery as ever.

In this condition Spangberg found affairs in the winter of 1734-35.
With his usual energy he had pushed his transports to Yakutsk in
the summer preceding, and with the same boats he proceeded up the
Aldan and Maya, but winter came on and his boats were frozen in on
the Yudoma. He started out on foot by the familiar route across the
Stanovoi Mountains to Okhotsk, which place he reached after enduring
great hardship and suffering; but even here he found no roof for
shelter. He was forced to subsist on carcasses and roots, and not
until the spring fishing began and a provision caravan sent by Bering
arrived, did he escape this dire distress. In the early summer,
Pissarjeff put in an appearance, and very soon a bitter and fatal
enmity arose between these two men.

Spangberg was born in Jerne near Esbjerg in Jutland (Denmark), probably
about the year 1698. He was the son of well-to-do parents of the middle
class. In the Jerne churchyard there is still to be seen a beautiful
monument on the grave of his brother, the "estimable and well-born
Chr. Spangberg," nothing else is known of his early life. In 1720, he
entered the Russian fleet as a lieutenant of the fourth rank, and for
a time ran the packet-boat between Kronstadt and Lübeck, whereupon he
took part in Bering's first expedition as second in command. In 1732,
for meritorious service on this expedition, he was made a captain
of the third rank. He was an able, shrewd, and energetic man, a
practical seaman, active and vehement, inconsiderate of the feelings
of others, tyrannical and avaricious. He spoke the Russian language
only imperfectly. His fame preceded him throughout all Siberia, and
Sokoloff says that many thought him some general, _incognito_, others
an escaped convict. The natives of Siberia feared him and called him
Martin Petrovich Kosar, or in ironical praise, "Batushka" (old fellow).
He had many enemies. Complaints and accusations were showered upon
him, but it would most certainly be wrong to ascribe to them any great
significance. Siberia is the land of slander. All Russian officials
were corruptible, and the honest men among those who stood nearest to
Peter himself could literally be counted on one's fingers. While in
Siberia, Spangberg is said to have acquired the possession of many
horses, valuable furs, and other goods of which the authorities had
forced the sale. When the Senate, after his great voyage of discovery
to Japan, had treated him unjustly, he left Siberia arbitrarily in
1745, and, without leave of absence, set out for St. Petersburg, where
he was summoned before a court-martial and condemned to death; but this
was finally commuted to his being reduced to a lieutenant for three
months. He remained in the service and died, in 1761, as a captain of
the first rank. In Okhotsk he was accompanied by his wife and son.[54]

But his opponent was a still more remarkable man. Major-General
Pissarjeff had been a favorite of Peter the Great, director of the
military academy, and a high officer of the Senate. He had received
a careful education abroad, and moved in the very highest circles of
society. In a quarrel with Vice-Chancellor Shafiroff, in 1722, however,
he had incurred Peter's wrath, whereupon he was for a time deprived
of all official rank and banished to the Ladoga canal as overseer of
this great enterprise. Later he was pardoned, but when, in 1727, he
conspired against Prince Menshikoff, he was deprived of everything,
knouted, branded, and then exiled to Siberia as a colonist. After a
series of vicissitudes he appeared, in the capacity of harbor-master at
Okhotsk, but the government gave him no rank; he was not even permitted
to cover his brand. This old man, made vicious by a long and unjust
banishment, became Bering's evil spirit. In spite of his sixty or
seventy years, he was as restless, fiery and vehement in both speech
and action as when a youth, dissolute, corruptible, and slanderous--a
false and malicious babbler, a full-fledged representative of the
famous Siberian "school for scandal." For six long years he persecuted
the expedition with his hatred and falsehoods, and was several times
within an ace of overthrowing everything. He lived in a stockaded fort
a few miles in the country, while Spangberg's quarters were down by
the sea, on the so-called Kushka, a strip of land in the Okhota delta,
where the town was to be founded. The power of each was unrestrained.
Both were dare-devils who demanded an obedience which foretold the
speedy overthrow of each. Both sought to maintain their authority
through imprisonment and corporal punishment. Thus they wrangled for
a year, Pissarjeff, meanwhile, sending numerous complaints to Yakutsk
and St. Petersburg. But Spangberg was not to be trifled with. In the
fall of 1736 he swore that he would effectually rid himself of "the
old scoundrel," who thereupon in all haste fled to Yakutsk, where he
arrived after a nine days' ride, and filled the town with his prattling
falsehoods, to which, however, only the Academists seem to have paid
any attention.

Under circumstances where the local authorities did everything in their
power to hinder the development of a district, it is only natural that
in the settlement of Okhotsk and the construction of the ships for
the expedition but slow progress was made. The enormous stores which
were necessary for six or eight sea-going ships--provisions, cannon,
powder, cables, hemp, canvas, etc., it would take two or three years
to bring from Yakutsk, a distance both long and tedious, and fraught
with danger. The work, the superhuman efforts, the forethought, and
perseverance that Bering and his men exhibited on these transporting
expeditions on the rivers of East Siberia have never been described or
understood, and yet they perhaps form the climax in the events of this
expedition, every page of the history of which tells of suffering and
thankless toil.

In the middle of the 17th century, those Cossacks that conquered
the Amoor country had opened this river navigation, and now Bering
re-opened it. The stores were transported down the Lena, up the Aldan,
Maya, and Yudoma rivers, thence across the Stanovoi Mountains, down the
Urak, and by sea to Okhotsk. These transportations at first employed
five hundred soldiers and exiles, and later more than a thousand. The
season is very short. The rivers break up in the early part of May,
when the spring floods, full of devastating drift-ice, rise twenty or
thirty feet above the average level and sweep along in their course
whole islands, thus filling the river-bed with trunks of trees and
sand, deluging the wild rock-encircled valleys, so that navigation
can not begin until the latter part of May, again to be obstructed in
August by ice. The course was against the current, so the crew had
to walk along the rough and slippery banks and tug the flat-bottomed
barges up stream. In this way they were usually able, during the first
summer, to reach the junction of the Maya and the Aldan (Ust Maiskaya),
where Bering built a pier and a number of magazines, barracks, and
winter-huts. Then the next summer, the journey would be continued
up the Maya and into the Yudoma, which boils along through an open
mountain valley over rocks, stones, and water-logged tree trunks. It
has but two or three feet of water, is full of sand-banks, with a
waterfall here and there and long rapids and eddies,--the so-called
"schiver." In such places the current was so strong that thirty men
were scarcely able to tug a boat against it. Standing in water to
their waists, the men were, so to speak, obliged to carry the barges.
The water was very cauterizing, and covered their legs and feet with
boils and sores. The oppressive heat of the day was followed by nights
that were biting cold, and when new ice was formed, their sufferings
were superhuman. In this manner Yudomskaya Krest (Yudoma's Cross) was
reached in August of the second year. This place, where since the
days of the Cossack expedition a cross had stood, Bering made an
intermediate station for the expedition. Here were the dwellings of two
officers, a barrack, two earth-huts, six warehouses, and a few other
buildings and winter-huts. In these warehouses the goods were stored,
to be conveyed, in the following winter, on horseback across the
Stanovoi Mountains to the mountain stream Urak, which, after a course
of two hundred versts, reaches the sea three miles south of Okhotsk.

For this part of the expedition, new winter-huts on the Stanovoi
Mountains, and magazines, river boats, and piers on the Urak had to be
built. This river is navigable only for a few days after the spring
thaw. Then it boils along at the rate of six miles an hour, often
making a trip down its course a dangerous one. Losseff says that in
this way, other things being favorable, Okhotsk was reached in three
years. The brief account which has here been attempted gives but a
faint idea of the labor, perseverance, and endurance requisite to make
one of these expeditions. Barges and boats had to be built at three
different places, roads had to be made along rivers, over mountains,
and through forests, and piers, bridges, storehouses, winter-huts and
dwellings had to be constructed at these various places. Not only
this. They suffered many misfortunes. Boats and barges were lost, men
and beasts of burden were drowned, deserted, or were torn to pieces
by wolves,--and all these difficulties Bering and his assistants
overcame through their own activity, without the support of the
Siberian government, yes, in spite of its ill will, both concealed and
manifest. In 1737, he reported to the Admiralty: "Prior to our arrival
at Yakutsk not a pood[55] of provisions had been brought to Okhotsk
for us, nor had a single boat been built for the transportation. Nor
did we find workmen or magazines at the landing places on the Maya
and Yudoma rivers. The Siberian authorities have not taken a single
step toward complying with the ukases issued by Her Royal Highness."
And with justifiable self-esteem he adds: "We did all this. We built
transports, we obtained workmen in Yakutsk, we conveyed our provisions
to Yudomskaya Krest, and with superhuman efforts thence to the sea. At
the mouths of the Maya and Yudoma, at the Cross, and at the Urak we
erected storehouses and dwellings, in the Stanovoi Mountains several
winter-huts, and on the Urak no less than seventy river boats, which
have, in part, started for Okhotsk with provisions. Not until after
the lapse of two years have I been able to induce the authorities in
Yakutsk to appoint superintendents of transportation, and for this
reason it was entirely impossible for me to depart for Okhotsk, unless
I wanted to see the work of the whole expedition come to a complete
standstill, bring upon my men the direst need, and force the whole
enterprise into most ignominious ruin."


[53] Note 7.

[54] Note 42.

[55] A pood is thirty-six pounds.



The difficulties recounted in the preceding chapter are alone
sufficient to justify Bering's nearly three years' stay in Yakutsk; but
simultaneously many other duties demanded his attention. It does not
come within the scope of this treatise to describe the investigations
of the Academical branch of this enterprise,--to portray Müller's
and Gmelin's services to botany, history, and geography; they are of
interest here only in their relation to Bering. Especially in Yakutsk
did those men give him much to attend to. It devolved upon him now
to convey those gentlemen, in a manner fitting their station, up or
down the Lena, now to send La Croyère to Lake Baikal or to the Arctic
Ocean,--all of which was to be done in a country principally inhabited
by nomadic tribes, with only here and there a Russian population
where there were government officials, and with no other means of
transportation than those secured for the occasion. In Yakutsk, where
the Professors stayed a long time, their relations with Bering were
very much strained, principally, it would seem, on account of their
exorbitant demands for convenience and luxury. Since Bering would
not and could not take upon himself to transport them to Kamchatka
as comfortably as he had thus far conveyed them, especially not from
Okhotsk, in private and conveniently equipped vessels, and since the
Voivode likewise gave them but little hope of support, both Gmelin and
Müller made application for a release from the expedition, and left to
Krasheninnikoff and Steller their principal task--the description of

In the year 1736, moreover, very discouraging news was received from
the Arctic seas. Pronchisheff had been obliged to go into winter
quarters at Olenek, and Lassenius, who, August 2, had reached the rocky
islet Stolb, in the Lena delta, and on the 7th stood out of the mouth
of the Bykoff eastward, was driven by storm and ice into the river
Khariulakh, east of the Borkhaya Bay, where he wintered, in a latitude
of 71° 28'. The place was uninhabited, and he built from driftwood
a winter-house 66 feet long, making four apartments, with three
fireplaces, and a separate kitchen and bath-room. As Lassenius hoped to
be able to continue the expedition during the two succeeding summers,
the rations were made considerably smaller.

November 6, the polar night began, and shortly afterwards nearly the
whole crew were attacked by a deadly scurvy, so violent that perhaps
only Jens Munk[56] and his fellow-sufferers on the Churchill River have
experienced anything worse. On the 19th of December Lassenius died, and
in the few succeeding months nearly all of his officers and thirty-one
of the crew, so that when assistance from Bering arrived, only eight
men were alive. Müller and Gmelin say that the crew accused Lassenius
of high treason, and mutinied; but there is no documentary evidence of
this. The report seems to have arisen through a confounding of the name
of Lassenius with that of the deputy constable Rosselius, who, on the
18th of November, 1735, was sent, under arrest, to Yakutsk. To fill
the vacancies caused by this terrible disease, Bering had to send a
whole new command--Lieut. Dmitri Laptjef, the second mate Plauting, and
forty-three men--to Khariulakh to continue the expedition. In addition
to this, two boats with provisions were sent to the mouth of the Lena,
and in 1737, before he himself departed for Okhotsk, a shipload of
provisions was sent to supply the magazines on the Arctic coast. To
these various tasks Bering gave his personal attention.

In 1736-38 this great enterprise passed through a dangerous crisis.
Several years had elapsed since the departure from St. Petersburg,
three hundred thousand rubles (over two hundred thousand dollars) had
been expended--an enormous sum at that time--and yet Bering could
not point to a single result. Lassenius was dead, his successor, D.
Laptjef, had been unfortunate, Pronchisheff had, in two summers of
cruising, not been able to double the Taimyr peninsula, Ofzyn was
struggling in vain in the Gulf of Obi, while Bering and Spangberg had
not begun their Pacific expeditions. The former had not even reached
the coast. The government authorities at St. Petersburg were in the
highest degree dissatisfied with this seeming dilatoriness. The Senate
sent a most earnest appeal to the Admiralty to recall the expedition.
Here was a situation that Bering's enemies thought favorable for
their intrigues. The departments of the Admiralty were deluged with
complaints and accusations. The Siberian authorities, of whom Bering
so justly had complained, answered with counter-charges. He was not
familiar with the country, they said; he made unreasonable demands,
and did not know how to avail himself of means at hand. Pissarjeff
told the government that Bering and Spangberg had undertaken this
expedition into Siberia simply to fill their own pockets,--that they
accepted bribes, carried on a contraband liquor traffic, and had
already accumulated great wealth. The exiled naval officer, Kasanssoff,
reported that there was entire lack of system in the enterprise; that
everything was done at an enormous expenditure, and that nothing at
all would be accomplished. Lieutenant Plauting, one of Bering's own
officers, who had been reduced for neglect of duty, accused Bering of
being arbitrary, extravagant, and fond of show at the expense of the
government. He accused him, furthermore, of embezzlement on his first
expedition, in 1725, and alleged that Bering's wife had returned to
Russia with a fortune, and had in Yakutsk abducted two young women.[57]

History has not confirmed a single one of these charges. As for
sacrifice, disinterestedness, and zeal, Bering not only rises far
above his surroundings--which is, perhaps, not saying very much--but
his character is clean and unsullied. Even so petty a person as
Sokoloff, who, in other respects, does not spare him, has for his
character unqualified praise. Nevertheless, all of these complaints
and accusations caused Bering much trouble and vexation. The Admiralty,
hard pressed by the Senate, found it difficult to furnish the
necessary means for the continuation of the expedition, and treated
Bering severely and unreasonably. It lacked the view which personal
examination gives. It was beset with deceitfulness and circumvention,
and its experiences led it to take the worst for granted. Hence, it
sent Bering one message after the other reprehensive of his course.
It threatened to fine him, to court-martial him, to reduce him, and,
in 1737, it even went so far as to deprive him of his supplemental
salary, which was withheld several years.[58] Bering defended himself
with the bitterness of despair. In his reports he gave the most solemn
assurances of his perseverance and fidelity to duty, and the most
detailed accounts of all difficulties. He declared upon his honor that
he was unable to see any other means or resources than those he had
resorted to. He even appealed at last to the testimony of the chiefs of
the various expeditions and all the subordinate officers. He was not
believed. The Admiralty showed its lack of tact by letting Chirikoff
investigate a series of charges against him. Furthermore, in spite of
Bering's most urgent representations, Pissarjeff continued to retain
his position in Okhotsk; and, although the government threatened the
Siberian authorities with the sternest punishments, still the latter
only very inactively participated in the work of the expedition.

Sokoloff gives a very repulsive picture of Bering's assistants. On
account of the discomforts of the journey in this barbaric country,
and under the pressure of ceaseless toil, a large number of the
subordinates fell to drinking and committing petty thefts; and the
officers, gathered as they were from all quarters of the world, are
described as a band of gruff and unruly brawlers. They were always at
sword's points. Pronchisheff and Lassenius, Chirikoff and Spangberg,
the latter and Walton, Plauting, Waxel, Petroff and Endoguroff,
were constantly wrangling, and at times most shameful scenes were
enacted. Our Russian author is not adverse to giving Bering the
principal blame for these dissensions which cast a gloom on this
worthy undertaking and impaired the forces of the expedition. He
repeatedly, and with much force, accuses him of being weak, and in
the Imperial Marine this opinion seems yet to prevail.[59] Sokoloff
says: "Bering was a well-informed man, eager for knowledge, pious,
kind-hearted, and honest, but altogether too cautious and indecisive;
zealous, persevering, and yet not sufficiently energetic; well liked
by his subordinates, yet without sufficient influence over them,--too
much inclined to allow himself to be affected by their opinions and
desires, and not able to maintain strict discipline. Hence, he was not
particularly well qualified to lead this great enterprise, especially
in such a dark century and in such a barbaric country as East Siberia."
I do not doubt that we here find some of the elements of Bering's
character, but Sokoloff was much more of an archivist than historian
and student of human nature. In his long accounts he never succeeds, by
means of describing any action or situation, in giving a psychological
insight into Bering's character, and, as matters now stand, it is
impossible to draw any tenable line between the errors and delays that
were necessarily attendant upon such an over-burdened enterprise, and
those that were due to the possible inefficiency of the leader. By the
authority of the Senate the expedition was not a monarchical unit under
Bering, but a democratic association under an administrative chief. It
is not difficult to collect from the literature of that day a series of
expressions which accuse Bering of cruelty, imperiousness, and military
arrogance. Of a hundred leaders in Bering's position ninety-nine would
undoubtedly have thought it wise to leave the whole expedition. Steller
has with far more delicacy and skill drawn the main lines of his mental
physiognomy. "Bering was," he says, "a true and honest Christian,
noble, kind, and unassuming in conduct, universally loved by his
subordinates, high as well as low. Every reasonable person must admit
that he always sought to perform the work entrusted to him to the best
of his ability, although he himself confessed and often regretted that
his strength was no longer sufficient for so difficult an expedition.
He deplored the fact that the plans for the expedition had been made
on a much larger and more extensive scale than he had proposed, and he
expressed a desire that, on account of his age, he might be released
from this duty and have the task assigned to some young and active
Russian. As is well known, he was not naturally a man of quick resolve,
but when one considers his fidelity to duty, his cheerful spirit
of perseverance and careful deliberation, it is a question whether
another, possessed of more fire and ardor, could have overcome the
innumerable difficulties of the expedition without having completely
ruined those distant regions; for even Bering, far removed from all
selfishness, was scarcely able in this regard to keep his men in check.
The only fault of which the brave man can be accused, is that his
too great leniency was as detrimental as the spirited and oftentimes
inconsiderate conduct of his subordinates." It is undoubtedly true that
Bering was not fully equal to the task; but no one would have been
equal to this task. It is possible that his humane conduct impaired
the work of the expedition, but this allegation still lacks proof, and
Sokoloff, who wrote his book as a vindication of Chirikoff against Von
Baer's sympathetic view of Bering, must be read with this reservation.
It is downright absurd to hold the leader responsible for the moral
weaknesses of his officers, for he had not chosen them, and was as
dependent upon them as they upon him. "It seems to me," says Von Baer,
"that Bering has everywhere acted with the greatest circumspection and
energy, and also with the greatest forbearance. The whole expedition
was planned on such a monstrous scale that under many another chief it
would have foundered without having accomplished any results whatever."


[56] Munk was sent out by the Danish government in 1619 to search for a
Northwest passage.--TR.

[57] Note 43.

[58] Note 44.

[59] Note 45.



In the summer of 1737, Bering changed his headquarters to Okhotsk, and
in the course of the autumn and winter, the greater part of his force
was transferred to the same place or distributed among the various
intermediate stations on the Yudoma, Maya, and Urak. Spangberg and
Bering built Okhotsk. At the junction of the Okhota and the Kukhta, on
one of the narrow deltas, the so-called Kushka, they erected a church
for the expedition, a number of houses for the officers, barracks,
magazines, a large dock-yard, and other buildings. The old stockaded
fort, four miles farther up in the country, was deserted. Around the
military center of the expedition the town gradually formed and rapidly
grew to become the Russian metropolis on the Pacific. It cost very
great exertions to make the place inhabitable. The site was a long
sand-bank deposit, threatened by inundations. The climate was very
unhealthy,--a cold, raw fog almost continually hung over this region.
The party was pestered with fevers, and in this swamp it was that
Bering lost his health. "The place is new and desolate," he writes.
"We have sand and pebbles, no vegetation whatever, and no timber in
the vicinity. Firewood must be obtained at a distance of four to five
miles, drinking water one to two miles, while timber and joints for
ship-building must be floated down the river twenty-five miles." But
as a place for a dock-yard, as a harbor and haven of refuge for large
ships, the location had such great advantages that these difficulties
had to be overcome.

Spangberg's work had made the place. His men had worked clay, made
tiles, and built houses, and when Bering arrived the ships Archangel
Michael and Hope lay fully equipped in the harbor. Bering's old ships
Fortuna and Gabriel had been repaired, and Spangberg lacked only an
adequate supply of provisions to begin his expedition to Japan in the
autumn of 1737.

But the provision transports, as usual, moved on very slowly and
with great difficulty. In Okhotsk Spangberg's men were constantly in
distress. They received only the rations of flour and rice authorized
by law, and at long intervals some beef which Bering had bought in
Yakutsk. On account of this scarcity of provisions Spangberg was
obliged partially to stop work on the vessels. A part of his force was
permitted to go a-fishing, a part were sent to the magazines in the
country for their maintenance, while others were detached to assist
in the work of transportation; hence it was with only a small force
that he could continue work on the ships for the American voyage, the
packet-boats St. Peter and St. Paul.

Sokoloff says: "Bering stayed three years in Okhotsk, exerting himself
to the utmost in equipping expeditions, enduring continual vexations
from the Siberian government--especially on account of Pissarjeff--and
conducting frequent examinations and investigations into the quarrels
and complaints of his subordinates. During all this time he was sternly
and unreasonably treated by the Admiralty, which showered upon him
threats and reproaches for slowness sluggishness, and disorder, for
false reports and ill-timed accounts." Even as late as 1740 the Senate
made a proposition to discontinue the expedition, and only by calling
attention to the enormous expenditures already made, which would in
that case be completely wasted, was the Admiralty allowed to continue
it. Bering was especially disheartened on account of Pissarjeff. The
latter arrived at Okhotsk at the same time that Bering did, took up
his abode in the old Ostrog (fort) and immediately began his malicious
annoyances. His complaints and protests poured into headquarters at
Okhotsk. "For a correspondence with him alone," writes Bering, "I might
use three good secretaries. I find his foul-tongued criticism extremely
offensive." He would capture Bering's men to give them a drubbing,
while his own deserted him to join Bering, by whom they were kindly
received. The new town and the Ostrog were two hostile camps. Finally
Bering was compelled to make a sally to liberate his men. The intrepid
Spangberg, entirely out of patience with Bering's leniency, said: "Why
do you give yourself so much trouble about this old knave? Give me four
men and the authority and I shall immediately put him under arrest."

Finally, in 1738, Spangberg found it possible to depart for Japan, and
in two summer expeditions he charted the Kurile Islands, Yezo, and a
part of the eastern coast of Nipon (Hondo), whereupon the cartography
of this part of the globe assumed an entirely new appearance.

The expeditions to Japan, which employed four ships and several hundred
men, had exhausted the provisions in Okhotsk. It was again necessary
to raise large supplies in West Siberia. A demand was made upon the
government office in Tobolsk for 40,000 rubles. From the district of
Verkhoiansk 50,000 poods of provisions, while in part from West Siberia
and in part from the Admiralty 20,000 yards of cloth were received.
From other very distant places oil, hemp, and other necessaries were
obtained. The Admiralty despatched to Irkutsk and Yakutsk two naval
officers, Lieutenants Tolbukhin and Larionoff, to superintend the
transportation of these goods. The number of laborers was increased to
a thousand, the roads were improved, more attendants were provided, the
Siberian authorities exhibited more energy than before, new river-boats
were constructed, and pack-horses were collected from a large radius
of country; by these increased means it was possible to collect all
necessaries in Okhotsk by 1740. In the month of June the ships for the
American expedition, the St. Peter and the St. Paul, were launched.
They were two-masters, 80 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 9-1/2 feet deep,
rigged as brigs, each of 108 tons burden, carrying 14 two and three
pound guns.

In the harbor and on the Sea of Okhotsk there was now quite a
respectable fleet of eight or nine ships, all built by Bering. The
Arctic coasts had been charted through his efforts. Spangberg had with
great success completed his task, and had been sent by Bering to St.
Petersburg to render a report. Bering's own force, which consisted
of 166 men, besides 80 engaged in transporting, was now collected in
Okhotsk. The astronomical department under La Croyère and the scientist
Steller also arrived, and finally Bering had the satisfaction of seeing
his worst enemy removed. In August, 1740, Pissarjeff was discharged,
and poor Antoni Devier, first a cabin boy, then successively
aid-de-camp, general, and chief of police in St. Petersburg--one of
Peter the Great's most trusted companions in arms, but banished through
the hatred of Menshikoff--became his successor as harbor-master in

In the middle of August the packet-boats, the galley Okhotsk, and
a double sloop containing the scientists were ready to sail for
Kamchatka. Then Spangberg quite unexpectedly arrived. On his way home
he had received a counter order. The authorities in St. Petersburg
commanded him to repeat the expedition to Japan. This gave Bering
some extra work in the way of letters and orders, so that the vessels
under Bering's and Chirikoff's commands did not leave port until
the 8th of September. They were supplied with provisions for twenty
months, and their temporary destination was Avacha Bay on the east
coast of Kamchatka, where they were to pass the winter. All the great
enterprises which the government had instructed Bering to undertake
had now been begun. In the following chapters will be found a succinct
account of the results of each.


[60] Note 46.





The Arctic expeditions made during the period from 1734 to 1743 have
only in part any connection with the object of this work. These
expeditions were, it is true, planned by Bering, and it was due to
his activity and perseverance that they were undertaken. He secured
vessels, men, and means, and had charge of the first unsuccessful
attempt; he was responsible to the government, and in his zeal went
just as far as his instructions would allow him. But his own special
task soon taxed his time too heavily to permit him to assume charge of
the Arctic expeditions. They were not carried out until several years
after his departure from Yakutsk,--after he had ceased to be their
leader. We have already shown Bering's important relation to them,
something which has never before been done in West European literature.
Hence our object, namely, to give Bering his dues, may therefore best
be accomplished by giving a short account of the results achieved by
these expeditions.

The world has never witnessed a more heroic geographical
enterprise than these Arctic expeditions. In five or six different
directions--from the Petchora, the Obi, the Yenesei, and the Lena--the
unknown coasts of the Old World were attacked.[61] For a whole decade
these discoverers struggled with all the obstacles which a terrible
climate and the resources of a half developed country obliged them
to contend with. They surmounted these obstacles. The expeditions
were renewed, two, three, yes, even four times. If the vessels were
frozen in, they were hauled upon shore the next spring, repaired, and
the expedition continued. And if these intrepid fellows were checked
in their course by masses of impenetrable ice, they continued their
explorations on dog sledges, which here for the first time were
employed in Arctic exploration. Cold, scurvy, and every degree of
discomfort wrought sad havoc among them, but many survived the long
polar winter in miserable wooden huts or barracks. Nowhere has Russian
hardiness erected for itself a more enduring monument.

It was especially the projecting points and peninsulas in this region
that caused these explorers innumerable difficulties. These points
and capes had hitherto been unknown. The crude maps of this period
represented the Arctic coast of Siberia as almost a straight line. It
was first necessary for the navigators to send cartographers to these
regions, build beacons and sea-marks, establish magazines, collect
herds of reindeer, which, partly as an itinerant food supply, and
partly to be used as an eventual means of conveyance, followed along
the coast with the vessels, while here and there, especially on the
Taimyr peninsula, small fishing stations were established for supplying
the vessels.

In the summer of 1737 Malygin and Skuratoff crossed the Kara Sea and
sailed up the Gulf of Obi. In the same year the able Ofzyn charted the
coast between the Obi and the Yenesei, but was reduced to the rank of
a common sailor, because in Berezov he had sought the company of the
exiled Prince Dolgoruki.

In the year previous, Pronchisheff all but succeeded in doubling the
Taimyr peninsula, and reached the highest latitude (77° 29') that
had been reached by water before the Vega expedition. But it was
especially in the second attempt, from 1738 to 1743, that the greatest
results were attained. The two cousins, Chariton and Dmitri Laptjef,
who were equipped anew and vested with great authority, attacked the
task of doubling the Taimyr and Bering peninsulas with renewed vigor.
By extensive sledging expeditions, the former linked his explorations
to those undertaken by Minin and Sterlegoff from the west, and his
mate, Chelyuskin, in 1742, planted his feet on the Old World's most
northerly point, and thus relegated the story of a certain Jelmerland,
said to connect northern Asia with Novaia Zemlia, to that lumber-room
which contains so many ingenious cartographical ideas. But even these
contributions to science were, perhaps, surpassed by those of Dmitri
Laptjef. As Lassenius's successor he charted, in three summers, the
Siberian coast from the Lena to the great Baranoff Cliff, a distance of
thirty-seven degrees. On this coast, toward the last, he found himself
in a narrow strait, from ten to twenty yards wide, and he did not stop
until there was scarcely a bucketful of water between the polar ice and
the rocky shore. But Cape Schelagskii, on the northeast coast, where
Deshneff a century before had shown the way, he did not succeed in

As a result of the labors of this great Northern Expedition,
the northern coast of the Old World got substantially the same
cartographical outline that it now has. The determinations of latitude
made by the Russian officers were very accurate, but those of
longitude, based on nautical calculations, were not so satisfactory.
Their successors, Wrangell, Anjou, Middendorff, and even Nordenskjöld,
have therefore found opportunity to make corrections of but minor
importance, especially in regard to longitude.

But it is necessary to dwell a little longer on these expeditions.
Their principal object was not so much the charting of northern Siberia
as the discovery and navigation of the Northeast passage. From this
point of view alone they must be considered. This is the connecting
thought, the central point in these scattered labors. They were an
indirect continuation of the West European expeditions for the same
purpose, but far more rational than these. For this reason Bering
had, on his expedition of reconnoissance (1725-30), first sought that
thoroughfare between the two hemispheres without which a Northeast and
a Northwest passage could not exist. For this reason also he had, on
his far-sighted plan, undertaken the navigation of the Arctic seas,
where this had not already been done by Deshneff, and for this same
reason the Admiralty sought carefully to link their explorations to the
West European termini, on the coast of Novaia Zemlia as well as Japan.
Moreover, the discovery of a Northeast passage was the _raison d'être_
of these expeditions.

This alone promised the empire such commercial and political advantages
that the enormous expenditures and the frightful hardships which these
expeditions caused Siberia, might be justified. For this reason the
government, summer after summer, drove its sailors on along the Taimyr
and Bering peninsulas; for this reason, in 1740, it enjoined upon D.
Laptjef to make a last attempt to double northeast Asia from Kamchatka,
and this would undoubtedly have been accomplished if the unfortunate
death of Bering had not occurred shortly after;[62] and for this
reason, also, the government caused the charting of the coast by land
after all nautical attempts had miscarried.

Any extended documentary proof of the correctness of this view must be
considered unnecessary. The instructions expressly state the object
of the expedition: to ascertain with certainty whether vessels could
find a passage or not. Müller says the same. Scholars like Middendorff,
Von Baer, and Dr. Petermann look upon these expeditions from the same
standpoint, and have seen fit to give them the place of honor among all
the geographical efforts in the Northeast passage.[63] Some Swedish
scholars alone have found it necessary to maintain a different view.
Dr. A. Stuxberg and Prof. Th.

M. Fries in Upsala have published accounts of the history of the
Northeast passage, in which not a word about these expeditions is
found. Between the days of Vlaming and Cook, from 1688 until 1778, they
find nothing to be said of explorations in this part of the world, and
the charting of these waters does not, in their opinion, seem to have
any connection with the history of the Northeast passage. Prof. Fries
attempts to justify this strange method of treatment by the assertion
that those expeditions did not seek the navigation of the Northeast
passage, and did not undertake to sail a ship from the Atlantic to the
Pacific. But what authority, what historical foundation, have such
assertions? Simply because the Russians parceled out this work and
went at it in a sensible manner; because they did not loudly proclaim
their intention to sail directly from the Dwina to Japan; because
they had been instructed by the visionary and fatal attempts of West
Europe,--yes, one is almost tempted to say, just because those Russian
expeditions alone are of any importance in the early history of the
passage, the Swedish historians pass them by; Prof. Fries has even
ventured the assertion that the discovery of the Northeast passage by
these Russian expeditions, one hundred and thirty-seven years before
Nordenskjöld, is a discovery hitherto unsurmised by anyone but the
author of this work. I am not disposed to wrangle about words, and
still less to interfere with anyone's well-earned privileges. By
the discovery of the Northeast passage, I understand that work of
geographical exploration, that determination of the distribution of
land and water along the northern boundary of the Old World, that
traversing and charting of the coast which showed the existence of the
passage, but not the nautical utilization of it. This is the European
interpretation of this question. In any other sense McClure did not
discover the Northwest passage. If it is permissible to speak of the
discovery of the Northeast passage after the time of Bering and the
Great Northern Expedition, it is equally permissible to speak of the
discovery of the Northwest passage after the time of the great English
expeditions. If some future Nordenskjöld should take it into his head
to choose these waters as the scene of some great nautical achievement,
McClure, according to Prof. Fries's historical maxims, could not even
find a place in the history of this passage, for it was not his object
to sail a ship around the north of the New World. I very much doubt,
however, that the Professor would in such a case have the courage to
apply his maxims.

Nor does Baron Nordenskjöld concede to the Great Northern Expedition
a place in the history of the Northeast passage. The "Voyage of the
Vega" is an imposing work, and was written for a large public, but
even the author of this work has not been able to rise to an unbiased
and just estimate of his most important predecessors. His presentation
of the subject of Russian explorations in the Arctic regions, not
alone Bering's work and that of the Great Northern Expedition, but
also Wrangell's, Lütke's, and Von Baer's, is unfair, unsatisfactory,
inaccurate, and hence misleading in many respects. Nordenskjöld's book
comes with such overpowering authority, and has had such a large
circulation, that it is one's plain duty to point out palpable errors.
Nordenskjöld is not very familiar with the literature relating to
this subject. He does not know Berch's, Stuckenberg's, or Sokoloff's
works. Middendorff's and Von Baer's clever treatises he uses only
incidentally. He has restricted himself to making extracts from
Wrangell's account, which in many respects is more than incomplete,
and does not put these expeditions in the right light. It is now a
couple of generations since Wrangell's work was written, which is more
a general survey than an historical presentation. While Nordenskjöld
devotes page after page to an Othere's, an Ivanoff's, and a Martinier's
very indifferent or wholly imaginary voyages around northern Norway,
he disposes of the Great Northern Expedition, without whose labors
the voyage of the Vega would have been utterly impossible, in five
unhappily written pages. One seeks in vain in his work for the
principal object of the Northern Expedition,--for the leading idea that
made these magnificent enterprises an organic whole, or for a full and
just recognition of these able, and, in some respects, unfortunate
men, whose labors have so long remained without due appreciation. In
spite of Middendorff's interesting account of the cartography of the
Taimyr peninsula, Nordenskjöld does not make the slightest attempt
to explain whether his corrections of the cartography of this region
are corrections of the work of Laptjef and Chelyuskin, or of the
misrepresentations of their work made by a later age.

About the charting of Cape Chelyuskin he says: "This was done by
Chelyuskin in 1742 on a new sledging expedition, the details of which
are but little known; evidently because until the most recent times
there has been a doubt in regard to Chelyuskin's statement that he had
reached the most northerly point of Asia. After the voyage of the Vega,
however, there can no longer be any doubt."[64]

The truth is, ever since 1843,[65] when Middendorff published the
preliminary account of his expedition to the Taimyr peninsula, no doubt
has prevailed that all who are familiar with Russian literature, or
even with German literature, on this subject, have long since been
convinced of the fact that the most northern point of Asia was visited
and charted a century and a half ago,--that the details of Chelyuskin's
expedition, so far from being unknown, are those parts of the work of
the Northern Expedition which have been most thoroughly investigated
and most often presented. Nordenskjöld's recognition of Chelyuskin's
work comes thirty-eight years too late; it has already been treated
with quite a different degree of thoroughness than by the few words
expended on it in the "Voyage of the Vega." In 1841, Von Baer accused
Chelyuskin of having dishonestly given the latitude of the most
northerly point of Asia, and these charges Nordenskjöld prints as late
as 1881 without any comment whatever. If he had only seen Von Baer's
magazine for 1845[66] he would there have found the most unreserved
retraction of them and most complete restitution to Chelyuskin on
the part of Von Baer, and would thus have escaped ascribing to a man
opinions which he renounced a generation ago. Middendorff is likewise
very painstaking in presenting the history of these measurements,
and is open and frank in his praise. He says: "In the spring of 1742
Chelyuskin crowned his work by sailing from the Khatanga River around
the eastern Taimyr peninsula and also around the most northerly point
of Asia. He is the only one who a century ago had succeeded in reaching
and doubling this promontory. The fact that among many he alone was
successful in this enterprise, must be attributed to his great ability.
On account of his perseverance, as well as his careful and exact
measurements, he stands preëminent among seamen who have labored in
the Taimyr country." And furthermore, in 1785, Sokoloff published a
very careful and extensive account of these labors, together with an
extract from Chelyuskin's diary relating to the charting of the Taimyr
peninsula, which later was published in German by Dr. Petermann.[67]
The difference in latitude of the northern point of the Taimyr
peninsula as determined by Chelyuskin and by Nordenskjöld is scarcely
three minutes.[68]


[61] Middendorff gives the following interesting outline of these

  From Petchora to the Obi:                    From the Obi:
  Muravjoff and Pavloff.                  Westward:      Eastward:
  Malygin and Skuratoff.                  Golovin.       Ofzyn.

  From the Yenesei:                            From the Lena:
    Eastward:                             Westward:      Eastward:
  Minin.                             Pronchisheff.       Lassenius.
                                     Chariton Laptjef.   Dmitri Laptjef.

[62] Note 47.

[63] Note 48.

[64] Note 49.

[65] Note 50.

[66] Note 51.

[67] Note 52.

[68] On his review of my book in the _Journal of the American
Geographical Society_, XVII., p. 288, Baron Nordenskjöld says: "Mr.
Lauridsen has devoted nearly two pages to showing that I am wrong in
what I have said of Chelyuskin--that 'up to a recent date the statement
that he really did reach the northern point of Asia was doubted.' But
I had certainly the right to say this. If a person in 1742 performed
one of the heroic deeds of geography without having received any
acknowledgment for it in his lifetime, and if the best authorities
in this person's own country a century later still considered him an
impostor, I was surely justified in giving the above-quoted opinion in
1880, in spite of the fact that two eminent geographical authorities
have withdrawn their charges. Moreover, is it really the case that
Sokoloff's and Von Baer's later writings made it impossible to revive
the old charge? He who can assert this must be but slightly acquainted
with the history of geography, and with that of Siberian geography
above all." In a note Nordenskjöld adds: "Previous to the departure of
the Vega from Sweden, I received a letter from an unknown well-wisher
to our voyage, cautioning me not to put too much faith in the
Chelyuskin exploration story, as the writer of the letter considered
it fictitious." To the Baron's criticism I shall simply remark: I
have shown in the text that when he wrote the "Voyage of the Vega"
he was not familiar with the latest works on this question. Hence he
has been entirely unable to decide whether the old doubts concerning
Chelyuskin's results could be revived or not. I appeal to all students
of these finer points in the history of geography, who will certainly
agree with my statement that the Baron in this question has absolutely
no other support than that of an anonymous letter!--_Author's Note to
American Edition._



The men that took part in these early Russian explorations have
not yet received their just dues. Not one of them, however, needs
rehabilitation so much as Spangberg. He is entitled to an independent
place in geographical history, but has been completely barred out. O.
Peschel and Prof. Ruge know him as Bering's principal officer, but not
as the discoverer of the Kurile Islands and Japan from the north. And
yet, just this was his task. He was to sail from Kamchatka to Nipon,
chart the Kurile Islands, link the Russian explorations to the West
European cartography of northern Japan, and investigate the geography
of the intervening region,--especially the cartographical monsters
which in the course of a century of contortion had developed from De
Vries's intelligent map of East Yezo, Iturup (Staaten Eiland) and
Urup (Kompagniland). We have already spoken of these geographical
deformities, which assumed the most grotesque forms, and were at that
time accepted by the scientific world. The version of the brothers De
l'Isle, which perhaps was the most sober, may be seen from Map II. in
the appendix.

By Strahlenberg (1730) and by Bellin and Charlesvoix (1735), highly
respected names among scholars of that day, Kamchatka and Yezo
were represented as forming a great continent separated by narrow
sounds from Japan, which was continued on the meridian of Kamchatka
and Yezo, and from an eastern chain of islands--Staaten Eiland and
Kompagniland--that seemed to project into the Pacific in the form of a

Kiriloff, who was familiar with Bering's map of eastern Asia, and
made use of it, and who knew of the most northerly Kuriles, made
the necessary corrections in his general map of Russia (1734), but
retained, in regard to Yezo and Japan, a strangely unfortunate
composition of Dutch and Strahlenberg accounts, and put Nipon (Hondo)
much too far to the east. In these cartographical aids Spangberg found
only errors and confusion, and he got about the same kind of assistance
from his real predecessors in practical exploration. Peschel tells
that Ivan Kosyrefski, in the years 1712-13, thoroughly investigated
the Kurile chain; there is, however, but little truth in this. Peschel
gives G. F. Müller as his authority and refers to his book, but the
latter says explicitly on this point: "All of Kosyrefski's voyages
were confined to the first two or three Kuriles; farther than this he
did not go, and whatever he tells of beyond them was obtained from the
accounts of others." It is possible that Müller's judgment is a trifle
one-sided, but it is nevertheless certain that Kosyrefski's description
of the Kuriles is based on his own explorations only in a very slight
degree, and that he by no means deserves the place that Peschel and
Ruge have accorded him. Nor did Lushin's and Yevrinoff's expedition in
the summer of 1721 get very far--scarcely beyond the fifth or sixth
island--and with them, until Spangberg appeared on the scene, Russian
explorations in this quarter were at a standstill.

The expedition to Japan (1738) was undertaken with three ships.
Spangberg and Petroff sailed the one-masted brig, the Archangel
Michael, Lieutenant Walton and first mate Kassimiroff the three-masted
double sloop Hope, and Second-Lieutenant Schelting had Bering's old
vessel, the Gabriel. The Michael had a crew of sixty-three, among them
a monk, a physician, and an assayer, and each of the other two ships
had a crew of forty-four. The flotilla left Okhotsk on the 18th of
June, 1738, but was detained in the Sea of Okhotsk by ice, and did not
reach Bolsheretsk until the early part of July. From here, on the 15th
of July, Spangberg departed for the Kuriles to begin charting.

The Kurile chain, the thousand islands or Chi-Shima, as the Japanese
call them, is 650 kilometers long. These islands are simply a multitude
of crater crests which shoot up out of the sea, and on that account
make navigation very difficult. The heavy fog, which almost continually
prevails here, conceals all landmarks. In the great depths, sounding
afforded little assistance, and, furthermore, around these islands
and through the narrow channels there are heavy breakers and swift

For nearly a century after Spangberg, these obstacles defied some of
the world's bravest seamen. Captain Gore, who was last in command
of Cook's ships, was obliged to give up the task of charting this
region; La Pérouse succeeded in exploring only the Boussale channel;
the fogs forced Admiral Sarycheff (1792) to give up his investigations
here; Captain Broughton (1796) was able to circumnavigate only the
most southerly islands, without, however, succeeding in giving a
correct representation of them; and not until the early part of this
century did Golovnin succeed in charting the group more accurately
than Spangberg. All of these difficulties were experienced in full
measure by Spangberg's expedition. In constant combat with fogs, swift
currents, and heavy seas along steep and rocky coasts, he had, by the
3d of August, 1738, circumnavigated thirty-one islands (our maps have
not nearly so large a number), and at a latitude of 45° 30' he reached
the large island Nadeshda, (the Kompagniland of the Dutch, Urup),
but, as he could nowhere find a place to anchor, and as the nights
were growing dark and long, the ship's bread running short, and the
crew for a long time having been on half rations, he turned back, and
reached Bolsheretsk on the 17th of August. Lieutenant Walton, who had
parted company with his chief and had sailed as far down as 43° 30'
north latitude, thus reaching the parallel of Yezo, arrived a few days
later. As well as the other chiefs of these expeditions, Spangberg had
authority, without a renewed commission, to repeat the expedition the
following summer; hence the winter was spent in preparations for it.
So far as it was possible to do so, he sought to provision himself in
Kamchatka, and, especially for reconnoitering the coast, he built of
birchwood an eighteen-oared boat, called the Bolsheretsk.

On the 21st of May, 1739, he again stood out to sea with all four
ships, and on the 25th of the same month he reached Kurile Strait,
and from here sailed south southeast into the Pacific to search for
Gamaland and all the legendary group of islands which appeared on
De l'Isle's map. This southerly course, about on the meridian of
Kamchatka, he kept until the 8th of June, reaching a latitude of 42°.
As he saw nothing but sea and sky, he veered to the west southwest
for the purpose of "doing the lands" near the coast of Japan. Walton,
who, in spite of Spangberg's strictest orders, was constantly seeking
to go off on his own tack, finally, on the 14th of June, found an
opportunity to steal away and sail in a southwesterly direction. In
different latitudes, but on the same day, the 16th of June, both
discovered land. Walton followed the coast of Nipon down to latitude
33°, but Spangberg confined his explorations to the region between 39°
and 37° 30' N. The country was very rich. A luxuriant vegetation--grape
vines, orange trees and palms--decked its shores. Rich fields of rice,
numerous villages, and populous cities were observed from the vessel.
The sea teemed with fish of enormous size and peculiar form, and the
currents brought them strange and unknown plants. The arrival of the
ships caused great excitement among the natives, beacons burned along
the coast all night, and cruisers swarmed about them at a respectful
distance. On the 22d, Spangberg cast anchor one verst from shore, and
sought to communicate with them. The Japanese brought rice, tobacco,
various kinds of fruits and cloths, which, on very reasonable terms,
they exchanged for Russian wares. They were very polite, and Spangberg
succeeded in obtaining some gold coins, which, however, he found were
described by Kæmpfer. Several persons of high rank visited him in his
cabin and attempted to explain to him, by the aid of his map and globe,
the geography of Japan and Yezo. As his instructions enjoined upon him
the most extreme cautiousness, and as on the following day he found
himself surrounded by eighty large boats, each with ten or twelve men,
he weighed anchor and stood out to sea in a northeasterly direction.

It was Spangberg's purpose to chart the southern part of the Kurile
Islands, and, as will be seen from his chart,[69] he sought to
accomplish his task, and thus complete his work of 1738. The casual
observer will, however, find this map unsatisfactory and inaccurate,
and will not only be quite confused in viewing these islands so
promiscuously scattered about, and which seemingly do not correspond
with the actual geography of this region as known to us, but he will
even be inclined to suspect Spangberg of gross fraud. This is certainly
very unjust, however, and after a careful study of a modern map, I
venture the following opinion on this subject: In order to be able to
understand his chart and course, the most essential thing necessary
is simply to determine his first place of landing in the Kuriles,
the island Figurnyi, and to identify it with its present name. He
discovered this island on the 3d of July. Müller says that, according
to the ship's journal, it is in latitude 43° 50' N., and in spite
of the fact that Spangberg's determinations in longitude, based on
the ship's calculations, were as a rule somewhat inaccurate, which
in a measure is shown by Nipon's being located so far west, he is
nevertheless in this case right. Figurnyi is the island Sikotan and has
the astronomical position of this island on the chart (according to
Golovnin 43° 53' N. and 146° 43' 30" E.). This opinion is corroborated
by a map of the Russian discoveries published at St. Petersburg in
1787, and by Captain Broughton, who described the island in the fall of
1796, and gave it the name of Spangberg's Island, in honor of its first
discoverer. With this point fixed, it is not difficult to understand
and follow Spangberg.

Spangberg labored under very unfavorable circumstances. It rained
constantly, the coast was enveloped in heavy fogs, and at times it was
impossible to see land at a distance of eight yards. From Figurnyi
he sailed southwest, but under these difficult circumstances he took
the little islands of Taroko and the northern point of Yezo to be
one continuous coast (Seljonyi, the green island), and anchored at
the head of Walvisch bay, his Bay of Patience. From here he saw the
western shore of the bay, reached its farthest point, Cape Notske, and
discovered the peninsula of Sirokot and parts of the island Kumashiri,
which he called Konosir and Tsyntrounoi respectively; but, as he turned
from Cape Notske and sailed east into the Pacific, between Sikotan and
the Taroko Islands, he did not reach the Kurile Islands themselves,
and only the most northerly island in the group of the "Three Sisters"
may possibly be the southern point of Iturup. He then proceeded along
the eastern coast of Yezo, took the deep bay of Akischis as a strait
separating Seljonyi and Konosir, then crossed in a southerly direction
the large bay on the central coast of Yezo, without seeing land at its
head, to Cape Jerimo (his Matmai), and had thus navigated the whole
east coast of Yezo; but on account of the heavy fog, which prevented
him from seeing the exact outline of the coast, he made three islands
of Yezo: Matmai, Seljonyi and Konosir. In 1643, De Vries had in his
map linked a number of islands together, making one stretch of country
called Jeço, and now Spangberg had gone to the opposite extreme.

These explorations engaged Spangberg from the 3d to the 25th of July.
He several times met inhabitants of North Yezo, the Aïno people, whose
principal characteristics he has fully described, but as his men were
suffering from scurvy, causing frequent deaths among them (by August
29, when he arrived at Okhotsk, he had lost thirteen, among them the
physician), he resolved to turn at Cape Jerimo, and on his return
trip keep his course so close to the Kuriles that he might strike the
extreme points of De l'Isle's Jeço, all of Kompagniland, and the most
westerly parts of Gamaland.

Spangberg's explorations were far from exhaustive. He but partly
succeeded in lifting the veil that so persistently concealed the
true outline of this irregularly formed part of the globe. His
reconnoissance was to ascertain the general oceanic outline of
these coasts. His charting of Yezo and Saghalin was left to a much
later day,--to La Pérouse, to Krusenstern, Golovnin, and others.
But Spangberg's expedition nevertheless marks great progress in our
geographical knowledge, for not only did he irrevocably banish the
cartographical myths of that region, and, on the whole, give a correct
representation of the Kurile islands clear to Iturup, the next to the
last of them, but he also determined the position of North Japan, and
fully accomplished his original task, namely, to show the Russians the
way to Japan, and thus add this long disputed part of the Northeast
passage to the other explorations for the same purpose.

As was the case with that of all of his colleagues, so Spangberg's
reputation suffered under the violent administrative changes and that
system of suppression which later prevailed in Russia. His reports were
never made public. The Russian cartographers made use of his chart,
but they did not understand how to fit judiciously his incomplete
coast-lines to those already known, or to distinguish right from
wrong. They even omitted the course of his vessel, thus excluding all
possibility of understanding his work. Hence Spangberg's chart never
reached West Europe, and Cook found it necessary to reinstate him as
well as Bering.[70] After that the feeling was more favorable, and
Coxe,[71] for instance, used his representation of the Kuriles; but
new and better outlines of this region appeared about this time, and
Spangberg again sank into complete oblivion.

Spangberg's safe return was a bright spot in the history of the Great
Northern Expedition, and Bering was very well satisfied with the
results. He permitted him and his crew to go to Yakutsk to obtain rest,
and ordered him to return to St. Petersburg the next spring to render
in person an account of the results of the expedition. His preliminary
report, sent in advance, received considerable attention in the cabinet
of the Empress, and caused much talk in the leading circles of the
capital. While in Yakutsk, he received orders to travel day and night
to reach St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, however, his old enemy Pissarjeff
had also been active. Surreptitiously, especially from Walton, who was
constantly at enmity with his chief, he had obtained some information
concerning the expedition and had reported to the Senate that Spangberg
had not been in Japan at all, but off the coast of Corea. This
assertion he sought to prove by referring to pre-Spangberg maps, which,
as we have noted, placed Japan eleven or twelve degrees too far east,
directly south of Kamchatka. This gossip was credited in the Senate,
and a courier was dispatched to stop Spangberg. At Fort Kirinsk, on the
Lena, in the summer of 1740, he received orders to return to Okhotsk
and repeat his voyage to Japan, while a commission of naval officers
and scholars betook themselves to investigate the matter. These wise
men, after several years of deliberation, came to the conclusion that
Walton had been in Japan, and that Spangberg most probably had been off
the coast of Corea. In the summer of 1742, he started out on his third
expedition to Japan, but as this was a complete failure, undoubtedly
due to Spangberg's anger on account of the government's unjust and
insane action, and as it has no geographical significance, we shall
give it no further consideration.


[69] See Appendix.

[70] Note 53.

[71] Note 54.



We left Bering when, in 1740, he was about to depart from the harbor of
Okhotsk with the St. Peter and the St. Paul, two smaller transports,
and a vessel to convey the scientists, Steller and La Croyère, to
Bolsheretsk. The objective point of the main expedition was Avacha
Bay, on the eastern coast of Kamchatka. The excellent harbors here had
been discovered by Bering's crew a couple of years previous. He had
now sent his mate, Yelagin, to chart the bay, find a sheltered harbor
there, and establish a fortified place of abode on this coast. This
work Yelagin completed in the summer of 1740, and when in the latter
part of September the packet boats entered Avacha Bay, they found, in a
smaller bay on the north side, Niakina Cove, some barracks and huts. A
fort was built in the course of the winter and the pious Bering had a
church built and consecrated to St. Peter and St. Paul, thus founding
the present town of Petropavlovsk. The place rapidly became the most
important and pleasant town of the peninsula, although that is not
saying much. In 1779, the place was still so insignificant that Cook's
officers searched long in vain for it with their field-glasses, but
finally discovered about thirty huts on that point which shelters
the harbor. In the middle of this century it had about a thousand
inhabitants, but since the sale of Russian America, Bering's town
has been hopelessly on the decline. At present it has scarcely 600
inhabitants and is of importance only to the fur trade.

Its first permanent inhabitants were brought from the forts on
the Kamchatka, and in the course of the autumn there arrived from
Anadyrskoi Ostrog a herd of reindeer to supply the command of over
two hundred men with food, and thus spare other stores. This was very
necessary, for although Bering had left Okhotsk with nearly two years'
provisions, one of the ships, through the carelessness of an officer,
stranded in crossing the Okhotsk bar, and the cargo, consisting of the
ship's bread for the voyage to America, was destroyed and could not
immediately be replaced. Some lesser misfortunes in Avacha Bay further
diminished the stores, and hence, in the course of the winter, Bering
found it necessary to have large supplies brought across the country
from Bolsheretsk. The distance is about one hundred and forty miles,
and as nothing but dogs could be procured, the natives were gathered
from the remotest quarters of the peninsula to accomplish this work of
transportation. The Kamshadales disliked journeys very much. They had
already suffered terribly under the misrule of the Cossacks. They were
treated cruelly, and many died of overwork and want, and the rest lost
patience. The tribes in the vicinity of Tigil revolted. The Cossack
chief Kolessoff, who was constantly drunk, neglected to superintend
the transportation, and as a result, much was injured or ruined. Some
of those supplies arrived too late to be used for the expedition.
Bering's original plan was to spend two years on this expedition. He
was to winter on the American coast, navigate it from 60° N. latitude
to Bering Strait, and then return along the coast of Asia. But this had
to be abandoned.

In May, 1741, when the ice broke up, he could supply his ships with
frugal, not to say very poor, provisions, for only five and a half
months. Moreover, his ship's stores and reserve rigging were both
incomplete and inadequate. Bering's powers of resistance now began to
wane. After eight years of incessant trouble and toil, after all the
accusations and suspicions he had undergone, he was now forced to face
the thought of an unsatisfactory conclusion of his first voyage, at
least. Besides, Spangberg's fate could not but have a very depressing
influence, for it told Bering and his associates that even with the
best of results it would hardly be possible to overcome the prejudices
of the government authorities or their lack of confidence in the
efforts of the new marine service. Undoubtedly it was such thoughts
as these that swayed Bering and Chirikoff, when, on the 4th of May,
they called the ship's council to consider the prospective voyage (the
proceedings are not known). Although both, as well as the best of their
officers, were of the opinion that America[72] was to be sought in a
direction east by north from Avacha, and in spite of the fact that they
were both familiar with Gvosdjeff's discovery of the American coast
of Bering Strait (1732), and that their observations during the course
of the winter had amply corroborated Bering's earlier opinion, they
nevertheless allowed themselves to be prevailed upon to search first in
a southeasterly direction for the legendary Gamaland. And thus the lid
of Pandora's box was lifted.

This fatal resolution was due principally to the brothers De l'Isle,
and, as this name is most decisively connected with Bering's life
and renown, we must say a few words about these brothers. The elder
and more talented, Guillaume De l'Isle, undoubtedly represented the
geographical knowledge of his day, but he died as early as 1726. He
came in personal contact with the Czar during the latter's visit in
Paris, and corresponded with him afterwards. His maps were the worst
stumbling blocks to Bering's first voyage. The younger brother, Joseph
Nicolas, on the other hand, was called to Russia in 1726, on his
brother's recommendation, and was appointed chief astronomer of the
newly founded Academy. In this position he was for twenty-one years
engaged upon the cartography of the great Russian empire. Under his
supervision the atlas of the Academy appeared in 1745, and it was
supposed that he carried very valuable geographical collections with
him to Paris in 1747. But if this was the case, he did not understand
how to make proper use of them, and, as it is, he is of no geographical
importance. When he went to Russia, he took with him, without special
invitation, his elder brother, Louis, and did everything to secure
him a scientific position in the country. Louis seems to have been
an amiable good-for-nothing, who highly prized a good table and a
social glass, but cared as little as possible for scientific pursuits.
When, as a young man, he studied theology in Paris, his father found
it necessary to send him to Canada, where he assumed his mother's
name, La Croyère, and for seventeen years lived a soldier's wild life,
until his brothers, on the death of the father, recalled him from his
exile. In St. Petersburg his brother instructed him in the elements
of astronomy, sent him upon a surveying expedition to Lapland, and
finally secured him a position as chief astronomer of Bering's second
expedition. This was a great mistake. Louis de l'Isle de la Croyère
very unsatisfactorily filled his position. His Academic associates
Müller and Gmelin had no regard for him whatever, and hence under
the pressure of this contempt, and as a result of this irregular and
protracted life in a barbaric country, La Croyère, having no native
power of resistance, sank deeper and deeper into hopeless sluggishness.
His astronomical determinations in Kamchatka are worthless. His Russian
assistants, especially Krassilnikoff, did this part of the work of the

As early as 1730, Bering, as we have seen, came into unfortunate
relations with Joseph De l'Isle, and this state of affairs afterwards
grew gradually worse. In 1731, the Senate requested the latter to
construct a map of the northern part of the Pacific in order to present
graphically the still unsolved problems for geographical research. He
submitted this map to the Senate on the 6th of October, 1732, that
is, two years and a half after Bering's proposition to undertake the
Great Northern Expedition, but this did not deter him, in 1750, from
ascribing to himself, on the basis of this same map and an accompanying
memoir, Bering's proposition, nor from publishing an entirely perverted
account of Bering's second expedition. He clung to all of his brother's
conjectures about Gamaland, Kompagniland, and Staatenland as well as
Jeço, although they were based on very unreliable accounts and the
cartographical distortions of several generations. On the other hand,
he most arbitrarily rejected all Russian accounts of far more recent
and reliable origin, so that only Bering's and part of Yevrinoff's
and Lushin's outlines of the first Kuriles were allowed to appear
on the official map. He would rather reject all Russian works that
could be made doubtful, than his brother's authority, and even in
1753, over twenty years after Spangberg's and Bering's voyages, he
persistently sought to maintain his brother Guillaume's and his own
unreasonable ideas concerning the cartography of this region. It was
in part this dogged persistence in clinging to family prejudices that
robbed Spangberg of his well-earned reward and brought Bering's last
expedition to a sad end.

When the second Kamchatkan expedition left St. Petersburg, a copy of De
l'Isle's map was given to Bering as well as to La Croyère. De l'Isle
wrote the latter's instructions--ably written, by the way--and it was
a result of his efforts that the Senate ordered Bering and Chirikoff
to consult with La Croyère concerning the route to America,--a very
reasonable decree in case he had been a good geographer. As it was, the
order simply meant that they were to go according to the regulations
of De l'Isle in St. Petersburg. In the ship's council on the 4th of
May, 1741, La Croyère immediately produced the above-mentioned map,
and directed the expedition first to find Gamaland, which, it was
claimed, could lie but a few days' sailing toward the southeast, and
would furnish good assistance in finding America. But La Croyère was
only a spokesman for his brother, who in his memoir had constructed
his principal reasoning on this basis. He says here that America can
be reached from the Chukchee peninsula as well as from the mouth of
the Kamchatka River, but with greatest ease and certainty from Avacha
Bay in a southeasterly direction to the northern coast of Gamaland.
In order to support this supposition he adds: "It grieves me not to
have found other information about this land seen by Don Juan de Gama
than what is given on the map of my late brother, his most Christian
Majesty's first geographer. But as he indicated the position of this
country with reference to Kompagniland and Jeço, and as I am certain,
from other sources, of the position of these two countries, I am
consequently convinced of their correct situation and distance from

That these miserable arguments exercised any influence upon the ship's
council on the 4th of May, would seem impossible, if we did not bear
in mind the conduct of the authorities in St. Petersburg. Two years
previous Spangberg had sailed right across Kompagniland, Staatenland
and Jeço, and thus made every point in De l'Isle's argument untenable.
Bering and Chirikoff were familiar with the results of these voyages,
and shared Spangberg's opinion. For this reason they could not possibly
ascribe any great importance to De l'Isle's directions which were
based on antiquated assumptions, but on the other hand, they had
neither moral nor practical independence enough to take their own
course. The government laws, and especially the Senate decrees, bound
their hands. They were to submit all important measures to the action
of a commission, and were far from being sovereign commanders in any
modern sense. Under these circumstances they found it advisable, and
possibly necessary, to act in accordance with the opinion of these
learned scholars, so as to be able later to defend themselves in every
particular against the criticisms of the Academy. Hence the commission
resolved that the expedition should first find the northern coast of
Gamaland, follow this coast in an easterly direction to America, and
turn back in time to be at home in Avacha Bay by the end of September.
In this way their ships were carried far into the Pacific and away from
the Aleutian chain of islands, which, like the thread of Ariadne, would
speedily have led them to the western continent.


[72] Note 55.



In the course of the month of May the vessels were equipped and
supplied with provisions for five and a half months, several cords
of wood, 100 casks of water, and two rowboats each. The St. Peter,
commanded by Bering, had a crew of 77, among whom were Lieutenant
Waxel, shipmaster Khitroff, the mates Hesselberg, and Jushin, the
surgeon Betge, the conductor Plenisner, Ofzyn (whom we remember as
the officer who had been reduced in rank), and Steller. On board the
St. Paul, commanded by Lieut. Alexei Chirikoff, were found the marine
officers Chegatchoff and Plautin, La Croyère, and the assistant surgeon
Lau,--in all about 76 men. Before his departure, Bering had a very
difficult matter to arrange. His instructions directed him to take
with him to America a mineralogist; but when Spangberg had started out
on his unexpected expedition to Japan, Bering had sent with him the
mineralogist Hartelpol, and now he found it impossible in East Siberia
to get a man to fill his place. Hence, as early as February, Bering
applied to Steller and tried to induce him to take upon himself the
duties of naturalist and mineralogist on this expedition.

Steller was born at Windsheim, Germany, in 1709. He first studied
theology and had even begun to preach, when the study of science
suddenly drew him from the church. He studied medicine and botany,
passed the medical examinations in Berlin, and lectured on medicine in
Halle. Then, partly as a matter of necessity and partly from a desire
to travel, he went to Danzig, where he became surgeon on a Russian
vessel, and finally, after a series of vicissitudes, he landed in St.
Petersburg as a lecturer in the Academy of Science. According to his
own desire he went to Siberia as Gmelin's and Müller's assistant, and,
as these gentlemen found it altogether too uncomfortable to travel
any farther east than Yakutsk, he took upon himself the exploration
of Kamchatka. He was an enthusiast in science, who heeded neither
obstacles nor dangers, a keen and successful observer, who has enriched
science with several classical chapters, and had an ardent and
passionate nature that attacked without regard to persons every form of
injustice. His pen could be shaped to epigrammatic sharpness, and his
tongue spared no one. In 1741, he wished to extend his investigations
to Japan, and had, when Bering sought to secure his services, sent to
the Academy a request to be permitted to participate in Spangberg's
third expedition. Steller had, however, great hesitancy about leaving
his special field of investigation without orders or permission, and
Bering had to assume all responsibility to the Senate and Academy,
and also secure for him from a council of all the ship's officers an
assurance of the position as mineralogist of the expedition, before he
could be induced to accept. Bering is said to have charged him verbally
to make observations in all the departments of natural history, and
promised him all necessary assistance. Steller accuses Bering of not
having kept his promises, and, although he preserved until the last
a high regard for Bering's seamanship and noble character, there
nevertheless developed, during the expedition, a vehement enmity
between Steller and the naval officers, especially Waxel and Khitroff,
and this enmity found very pregnant expression in Steller's diary,[73]
which, in this respect, is more a pamphlet than a description of
travel. It is impossible, however, with our present resources, to
ascertain the true state of affairs. Concerning Bering's voyage to
America, we have only the St. Peter's journals kept by Waxel, Jushin,
and Khitroff, and an account by Waxel, all of which have been used
by Sokoloff in the preparation of the memoirs of the hydrographic
department. Steller's diary, which goes into a detailed account of
things in quite a different way than the official reports, was also
used by Sokoloff, but as the latter had but little literary taste
and still less sympathy for the contending parties, especially for
Bering, he does not attempt to dispense justice between them. Steller's
criticism must be looked upon as an eruption of that ill-humor which
so often and so easily arises in the relations between the chief
of an expedition and the accompanying scientists, between men with
divergent interests and different aims. Bering and Steller, Cook and
his naturalists, Kotzebue and Chamisso, are prominent examples of this
disagreement. It is well known that Cook called the naturalists "the
damned disturbers of the peace," and that he more than once threatened
to put them off on some island or other in the ocean. Steller accuses
Bering of having too much regard for his subordinate officers, but
in all likelihood these had made the countercharge that he gave too
much heed to the scientists. At any rate, Bering has often been blamed
for--in accordance with his instruction--letting La Croyère take part
in the councils at Avacha. But we must not forget that Steller was a
hot-headed and passionate fellow who persistently maintained his own
opinions. From many points in his accounts, it appears that during this
whole expedition he was in a state of geographical confusion; and even
after his return he seemed to imagine that the two continents were
separated by simply a narrow channel. He was guided by observations of
a scientific nature, and, as the course of the St. Peter was no farther
from the Aleutian Islands than the appearance of seaweed, seals, and
birds indicated, he constantly imagined that they were off the coast of
the New World. The naval officers, on the other hand, sought guidance
in sounding; but as their course carried them out upon the great depths
of the Pacific, the northern wall of which very precipitously ascends
to the Aleutian Islands, their measurements were of no assistance, and
in various points Steller was undoubtedly correct. The principal reason
for Steller's complaint must be sought in Bering's illness, and it is
easily perceived that, if the scurvy had not at a very early stage
undermined his strength, his superior seamanship would have secured the
expedition quite different results than those that were obtained.

After a prayer service, the ships weighed anchor on the 4th of June,
1741. Expectations on board were great,--the New World was to open up
before them. According to the plan adopted, a southeasterly course was
taken, and in spite of some unfortunate friction, Bering gave Chirikoff
the lead, so as to leave him no cause for complaint. They kept their
course until the afternoon of June 12, when they found themselves,
after having sailed over six hundred miles in a southeasterly
direction, in latitude 46° 9' N. and 14° 30' east of Avacha. According
to De l'Isle's map they should long before have come to the coasts of
Gamaland, but as they only saw sea and sky, Bering gave the command
to turn back. With variable and unfavorable winds, they worked their
way, during the few succeeding days, in a direction of N. N. E. up to
latitude 49° 30', where Chirikoff, on the 20th of June, in storm and
fog, left Bering and sailed E. N. E. in the direction of the American
coast, without attempting to keep with the St. Peter. This was the
first real misfortune of the expedition. For forty-eight hours Bering
kept close to the place of separation, in hopes of again joining the
St. Paul, and, as this proved fruitless, he convened a ship's council,
at which it was decided to give up all further search for the St. Paul;
it was also resolved--in order to remove every doubt--to sail again
to the 46th degree to find Gamaland. Having arrived here, some birds
were seen, whereupon they continued their course to 45° 16' N. and
16° 28' east of Avacha, but of course without any results. During the
four succeeding weeks, the ship's course was between north and east,
toward the western continent, but as on their southern course they
had come out upon the depths of Tuscarora, which, several thousand
fathoms deep, run right up to the Aleutian reef, their soundings
gave them no clue to land, although they were sailing almost parallel
with this chain of islands. But Bering was now confined to his cabin.
The troubles he had passed through, his sixty years of age, and the
incipient stages of scurvy, had crushed his powers of resistance, while
his officers, Waxel and Khitroff, dismissed Steller's observations
with scornful sarcasm. Not until the 12th of July did they take any
precautions against a sudden landing. They took in some of the sails
during the night and hove to. They had then been on the sea about six
weeks. Their supply of water was about half gone, and according to
the ship's calculations, which show an error of 8°, they had sailed
46-1/2° (_i. e._, 54-1/2°) from the meridian of Avacha. The ship's
council therefore concluded, on the 13th of July, to sail due north,
heading N. N. E., and at noon on the 16th of July, in a latitude by
observation of 58° 14' and a longitude of 49-1/2° east of Avacha, they
finally saw land to the north.[74] The country was elevated, the coast
was jagged, covered with snow, inhospitable, and girt with islands,
behind which a snow-capped mountain peak towered so high into the
clouds that it could be seen at a distance of seventy miles. "I do
not remember," says Steller, "of having seen a higher mountain in all
Siberia and Kamchatka." This mountain was the volcano St. Elias, which
is about 18,000 feet high. _Bering had thus succeeded in discovering
America from the east._ As they had a head wind, they moved very slowly
toward the north, and not until the morning of the 20th did they cast
anchor off the western coast of an island which they called Sct. Ilii
(St. Elias) in honor of the patron saint of the day. On the same day,
Khitroff with fifteen men went, in the ship's boat, to search for a
harbor and to explore the island and its nearest surroundings. Steller,
who had desired to accompany him, was put ashore with the crew that
brought fresh water from St. Elias, and endeavored, as well as it was
possible in a few hours, to investigate the natural history of the
island. Khitroff circumnavigated the island and found various traces
of human habitation. Thus, on one of the adjacent islands, a timbered
house was found containing a fireplace, a bark basket, a wooden spade,
some mussel shells, and a whetstone, which apparently had been used
for sharpening copper implements. In an earth-hut another detachment
had found some smoked fish, a broken arrow, the remains of a fire, and
several other things. The coast of the mainland, which was mountainous
with snow-capped peaks, was seen at a distance of eight miles. A good
harbor was found on the north side of the large island. All the islands
were covered with trees, but these were so low and slender that timber
available for yards was not to be found. On his venturesome wanderings
here, only now and then accompanied by a Cossack, Steller penetrated
these woods, where he discovered a cellar, which contained articles
of food and various implements. As some of these things were sent on
board, Bering, by way of indemnification, caused to be placed there an
iron kettle, a pound of tobacco, a Chinese pipe, and a piece of silk


[73] Note 56.

[74] H. H. Bancroft, History of Alaska, p. 79, has the following note:
"The date of Bering's discovery, or the day when land was first sighted
by the lookout, has been variously stated. Müller makes it the 20th of
July, and Steller the 18th; the 16th is in accordance with Bering's
journal, and according to Bering's observation the latitude was 58°
28'. This date is confirmed by a manuscript chart compiled by Petroff
and Waxel, with the help of the original log-books of both vessels.
The claim set up by certain Spanish writers in favor of Francisco
Gali as first discoverer of this region is based on a misprint in an
early account of his voyage. For particulars see Hist. Cal., I., this



In geographical literature complete uncertainty in regard to Bering's
island St. Elias and its situation off the American coast still
prevails. This uncertainty is due partly to Müller and partly to Cook.
Müller is inaccurate; in fact, confused. He says that Bering saw the
American continent in a latitude of 58° 28', and at a difference of
longitude from Avacha of 50° (in reality, 58° 14' and 56° 30'), but he
gives neither the latitude nor longitude of the island of St. Elias,
which is the important point, and on his map of 1758, where he goes
into details more than in his description, he marked on latitude 58°
28': "_Coast discovered by Bering in 1741._" On such vague reports
nothing can be based. In the ship's journal, however, which Müller in
all likelihood must have seen, the latitude of the island is entered as
59° 40', and the longitude, according to the ship's calculations, as
48° 50' east of Avacha. But as Bering's calculations, on account of the
strong current, which in these waters flows at a rate of twenty miles,
had an error of about 8°, the longitude becomes 56° 30' east of Avacha,
and at this astronomical point, approximately correct, lies Kayak
Island, which is Cook's Kayes Island, having a latitude of 59° 47' and
a longitude of 56° 44' east of Avacha, and hence the question is to
prove that this island really is the Guanahani of the Russians, that
is, St. Elias.

Cook is the authority for the opinion which has hitherto prevailed; but
surely no one can be more uncertain and cautious on this point than he.
He says: "Müller's report of the voyage is so abbreviated, and his map
is so extremely inaccurate, that it is scarcely possible from the one
or the other, or by comparing both, to point out a single place that
this navigator either saw or landed on. If I were to venture an opinion
on Bering's voyage along this coast, I should say that he sighted land
in the vicinity of Mt. Fairweather. But I am in no way certain that the
bay which I named in his honor is the place where he anchored. Nor do
I know whether the mountain which I called Mt. St. Elias is the same
conspicuous peak to which he gave this name, and I am entirely unable
to locate his Cape St. Elias."

It would seem that such uncertain and reserved opinions were scarcely
liable to be repeated without comment or criticism. But nevertheless,
the few reminiscences of this chapter of Bering's explorations
which our present geography has preserved are obtained principally
from Cook's map; for the first successors of this great navigator,
Dixon, 1785, La Pérouse, 1786, Malespina, 1791, and Vancouver, 1792,
through whose efforts the northwest coast was scientifically charted,
maintained, with a few unimportant changes, Cook's views on this point.
According to these views, Bering Bay was in 59° 18' north latitude
and 139° west longitude, but Cook had not himself explored this bay;
he had simply found indications of a bay, and hence La Pérouse and
Vancouver, whose explorations were much more in detail, and who at
this place could find no bay, were obliged to seek elsewhere for it.
La Pérouse puts Bering Bay 10' farther south, at the present Alsekh
River, northwest of Mt. Fairweather, the lagoon-shaped mouth of which
he calls _Rivière de Bering_, and Vancouver was of the opinion that in
La Pérouse's _Bay de Monti_, Dixon's Admiralty Bay, 59° 42' N. lat., he
had found Bering's place of landing. Vancouver's opinion has hitherto
held its own. The names Bering Bay, Admiralty Bay, or, as the Russians
call it, Yakutat, are found side by side; the latter, however, is
beginning to displace the former, and properly so, for Bering was never
in or near this bay.[75]

While this Cook cartography fixed Bering's place of landing too far
east, the Russians committed the opposite error. On the chart with
which the Admiralty provided Captain Billings on his great Pacific
expedition, the southern point of the Island of Montague, in Prince
William's Sound, (the Russian name of the island is Chukli), is
given as Bering's promontory St. Elias, and the Admiralty gave him
the right, as soon as the expedition reached this point, to assume a
higher military rank, something which he actually did. But Admiral
Krusenstern, with his usual keenness, comes as near the truth as it
was possible without having Bering's own chart and the ship's journal.
He thinks that, according to Steller's narrative, the St. Peter must
have touched America farther west than Yakutat Bay, and considers it
quite probable that their anchoring place must be sought at one of the
passages leading into Controller Bay, either between Cape Suckling
(which on Russian maps is sometimes called Cape St. Elias) and Point
Le Mesurier, or between the islands Kayak and Wingham. We shall soon
see that this last supposition is correct. O. Peschel has not ventured
wholly to accept Krusenstern's opinion, but he nevertheless calls
attention to the fact that Bering Bay is not correctly located. He
fixes Bering's landing place west of Kayak Island, and contends against
considering Mt. St. Elias as the promontory seen by Bering, something
which would seem quite superfluous.[76]

This uncertainty is all the more striking, as, from the beginning of
this century, there have been accessible, in the works of Sauer and
Sarycheff, facts enough to establish the identity of the island of
St. Elias with the present Kayak Island, and since the publication
of Bering's own map, in 1851, by the Russian Admiralty, there can no
longer be a shadow of a doubt. The map is found in the appendix of
this work, and hence a comparison between the islands of St. Elias and
Kayak is possible (Map IV). The astronomical situation of the islands,
their position with reference to the mainland, their surroundings,
coast-lines, and geographical extension, the depths of the sea about
both--everything proves that they are identical; and, moreover, Sauer's
and Sarycheff's descriptions, which are quite independent of the St.
Peter's journal, coincide exactly with the journal's references to
the island of St. Elias. Sauer says that the island, from its most
southerly point, extends in a northeasterly direction ("trend north
46° east"), that it is twelve English miles long and two and a half
miles wide, that west of the island's most northerly point there is a
smaller island (Wingham), with various islets nearer the mainland, by
which a well-protected harbor is formed behind a bar, with about seven
feet of water at ebb-tide,--hence just at the place where Khitroff,
as we have already seen, found an available harbor for the St. Peter.
The journal, as well as Steller, describes St. Elias as mountainous,
especially in the southern part, thickly covered with low, coniferous
trees, and Waxel particularly mentions the fact that off the coast
of the island's southern point, Bering's Cape St. Elias, there was a
single cliff in the sea, a "kekur," which is also marked on the map.
Sarycheff and Sauer speak of Kayak Island as mountainous and heavily
timbered. Its southern extremity rises above the rest of the island
and ends very abruptly in a naked, white, saddle-shaped mountain.
A solitary cliff of the same kind of rock, a pyramid-shaped pillar
("kekur," "_Abspringer_") lies a few yards from the point. Cook, too,
in his fine outlines of Kayak Island, puts this cliff directly south
of the point. If we then consider that the true dimensions of Bering's
island plainly point to Kayak, that his course along the new coast
is possible only on the same supposition that the direction in which
Bering from his anchorage saw Mt. St. Elias exactly coincides with
this mountain's position with reference to Kayak, that the soundings
given by him agree with those of Kayak, but do not agree with those of
Montague Island, which is surrounded by far more considerable depths
that have none of the above described characteristics, and which,
moreover, has so great a circumference that Khitroff could not possibly
have circumnavigated it in twelve hours, and finally, considering the
fact that everything which Steller gives as signs that a large current
debouched near his anchorage finds an obvious explanation in the great
Copper or Atna estuary, in 60° 17' N., then it will be difficult to
resist the conviction that _Kayak is Bering's St. Elias, and that
Vancouver's Cape Hammond is his Cape St. Elias_.

Moreover, the traditions of the natives corroborate this conclusion.
While Billings's expedition was in Prince William's Sound, says Sauer,
an old man came on board and related that every summer his tribe went
on hunting expeditions to Kayak.[77] Many years before, while he was
a boy, the first ship came to the island and anchored close to its
western coast. A boat was sent ashore, but when it approached land
all the natives fled, and not until the ship had disappeared did they
return to their huts, where in their underground store-rooms they found
some beads, leaves (tobacco), an iron kettle, and some other things.
Sarycheff gives an account of this meeting, which in the main agrees
with Billings's. These stories also agree with Steller's account.[78]

These facts have not before, so far as the author knows, been linked
together, but Sokoloff states, without proof, however, that Bering's
landfall was Kayak Island.[79] This correct view is now beginning to
find its way into American maps, where, in the latest works, Cape St.
Elias will be found in the proper place, together with a Bering Haven
on the northern coast of Kayak.[80]


[75] Note 57.

[76] Note 58.

[77] Note 59.

[78] Note 60.

[79] Bancroft, History of Alaska, p. 79, presents the same view: "The
identity of Kayak is established by comparing Bering's with Cook's
observations, which would be enough even if the chart appended to
Khitroff's journal had not been preserved. At first both Cook and
Vancouver thought it Yakutat Bay, which they named after Bering, but
both changed their minds. As late as 1787 the Russian Admiralty college
declared that the island Chukli (Montague of Vancouver) was the point
of Bering's discovery, but Admiral Sarycheff, who examined the journals
of the expedition, pointed at once to Kayak Island as the only point to
which the description of Bering and Steller could apply. Sarycheff made
one mistake in applying the name of Cape St. Elias to the nearest point
of the mainland called Cape Suckling by Cook."--TR.

[80] Note 61.



It is by no means an easy matter to form an unbiased opinion of
Bering's stay off Kayak Island. Steller is about our only authority,
but just at the point where it is most difficult to supplement his
account, he gives vent to most violent accusations against the
management of the expedition from a scientific standpoint. On the 16th
of July, when land was first seen, he says: "One can easily imagine
how happy all were to see land. No one failed to congratulate Bering,
as chief of the expedition, to whom above all others the honor of
discovery belonged. Bering, however, heard all this, not only with
great indifference, but, looking toward land, he even shrugged his
shoulders in the presence of all on board." Steller adds that on
account of this conduct charges might have been preferred against him
in St. Petersburg, had he lived.

As Bering during the first few succeeding days did not make any
preparations for a scientific exploration of the country, as he even
tried, according to Steller's assurance, to dissuade the latter from
making the island a visit, and as Steller only through a series of
oaths and threats (for thus p. 30 must undoubtedly be interpreted)
could obtain permission to make, without help or even a guard for
protection, a short stay on the island, his anger grew to rage, which
reached its culmination on the following morning when Bering suddenly
gave orders that the St. Peter should leave the island. "The only
reason for this," he says, "was stupid obstinacy, fear of a handful
of natives, and pusillanimous homesickness. For ten years Bering had
equipped himself for this great enterprise; the explorations lasted
ten hours!" Elsewhere he says derisively that they had gone to the New
World "simply to bring American water to Asia."

These accusations must seem very serious to every modern reader.
Unfortunately for Bering, his second voyage is of interest principally
from the standpoint of natural history. It is especially naturalists
that have studied it. They are predisposed to uphold Steller. Hence
his account threatens wholly to undermine Bering's reputation, and
as a matter of course, W. H. Dall, in discussing this subject, finds
opportunity to heap abuse upon Bering. He says: "On the 18th of July,
Bering saw land. On the 20th he anchored under an island. Between
two capes, which he called St. Elias and St. Hermogenes, was a bay
where two boats were sent for water and to reconnoitre. * * * With
characteristic imbecility, Bering resolved to put to sea again on the
next day, the 21st of July. Sailing to the northward, the commander
was confused among the various islands, and sailed hither and thither,
occasionally landing, but making no explorations, and showing his total
incapacity for the position he occupied. He took to his bed, and
Lieutenant Waxel assumed charge of the vessel."[81]

This is not writing history. It is only a series of errors and
incivilities. It was _not_ the 18th of July that Bering first saw land.
He did _not_ sail north from Kayak, but southwest, and hence could not
have lost his course among islands, for here there are no islands. Nor
did he sail hither and thither, but kept the course that had been laid
out, and charted the coasts he saw in this course. The most ridiculous
part of this is what this nautical author tells of the bay between
Cape St. Elias and Cape St. Hermogenes (Marmot Island off the coast of
Kadiak Island), for these points are farther apart than Copenhagen and
Bremen. If, according to this writer, Bering was unpardonably stupid,
he must have been, on the other hand, astonishingly "far-sighted."
After these statements it will surprise no one that this author
considers illness a kind of crime, and blames a patient, sixty years of
age, suffering with the scurvy, for taking to his bed! If Mr. Dall had
taken the trouble to study the Bering literature to which he himself
refers in his bibliography of Alaska, he would have been in a position
to pass an independent opinion of the navigator, and would certainly
have escaped making this series of stupid statements. His words now
simply serve to show how difficult it is to eradicate prejudice,
and how tenacious of life a false or biased judgment can be. Death
prevented Bering from defending and explaining his conduct. No one has
since that time sought to render him justice. I therefore consider it
my duty--even if I should seem to be yielding to the biographer's
besetting sin--to produce everything that can be said in Bering's

In the first place, then, it must be remembered that on the 21st of
July Bering had provisions left for no more than three months, and
that these were not good and wholesome. His crew, and he himself,
were already suffering from scurvy to such an extent that two weeks
later one-third of them were on the sick-list. Furthermore, he was
over fifty-six degrees of longitude from his nearest port of refuge,
with a crew but little accustomed to the sea. The American coast in
that latitude was not, according to Bering's judgment, nor is it
according to our present knowledge, in any way a fit place to winter,
and besides, he knew neither the sea nor its islands and depths, its
currents and prevailing winds. All this could not but urge him to
make no delay. And, in fact, Steller himself expressly says that it
was a series of such considerations that determined Bering's conduct.
"Pusillanimous homesickness" can scarcely have had any influence on a
man who from his youth had roamed about in the world and lived half a
generation in the wilds of Siberia. "The good Commander," thus Steller
expresses himself, "was far superior to all the other officers in
divining the future, and in the cabin he once said to myself and Mr.
Plenisner: 'We think now that we have found everything, and many are
pregnant with great expectations; but they do not consider where we
have landed, how far we are from home, and what yet may befall us. Who
knows but what we may meet trade winds that will prevent our return? We
are unacquainted with the country, and are unprovided with provisions
for wintering here.'"

It must be conceded that his position was one fraught with
difficulties. At this point there are two things which Steller
either has not correctly understood, or suppresses. According to
his instructions, Bering was authorized to spend two years and make
two voyages in the discovery of America, and to undertake another
expedition afterwards with new preparations and equipments. And in his
explanations to the crew he calls special attention to this point.
Under these circumstances it would not have been right in him to
assume any more risks than absolutely necessary. But here again the
old opposition between Bering's nautico-geographical and Steller's
physico-geographical interests breaks out. As a discoverer of the old
school Bering's principal object was to determine some elementary
geographical facts: namely, the distribution of land and water along
the new coast, and hence he left Kayak Island, not to reach Avacha
as soon as possible, but to follow the coast of the newly discovered
country toward the west and north. All authorities agree on this
point. It was illness and the Aliaska peninsula, projecting so far
into the ocean as it does, that prevented him from sailing up toward
latitude 65°, his real goal. Even Steller testifies to this, and
although he repeats his former accusations against Bering, it does
not signify anything, as he was excluded from the councils and was
obliged to guess at what was adopted. His accusations are especially
insignificant from the fact that he definitely contradicts himself on
this point, for later on in his narrative he says that not until the
11th of August was it resolved, on account of the approaching autumn
and the great distance from home, to start immediately on the return
voyage to Kamchatka. That is to say, they had not then made a start.
Until the 11th of August, for three weeks after their departure from
Kayak, Bering pursued his task of nautical discovery along the new
coast, and it would seem that he can be blamed for nothing more than
considering this work of the expedition more important than that of the
physico-geographical investigation which Steller represented. This was
but natural. It was merely accidental that Steller accompanied Bering,
and through him the expedition received a modern cast, which was not
at all designed, and which Bering desired to make use of only under
favorable circumstances. We may regret his haste, and we may especially
regret the fact that so keen and clever a naturalist as Steller did
not get an opportunity to explore the regions west of Mount St. Elias
before European trade and white adventurers put in an appearance; but
it hardly seems a question of doubt whether anyone for that reason has
a right to make accusations against the chief of the expedition.

It was very early on the morning of July 21 that the chief suddenly,
and contrary to his custom, appeared on deck and gave the command to
weigh anchor and stand out to sea. In doing this he set aside his
instructions from headquarters to act in accordance with the ship's
council. He acted as a sovereign chief, and notwithstanding the fact
that both of his lieutenants thought it wrong to leave the newly
discovered coast without an adequate supply of water, he overruled all
objections and informed them that he assumed all responsibility for
his conduct. He was convinced of the entire necessity of it, he said,
and thought it unsafe to remain longer in this exposed anchorage. Time
did not permit him to go in search of the harbor found by Khitroff on
the day previous, and there was moreover a seaward breeze. One fourth
of the water-casks remained unfilled.

Before a strong east wind, the St. Peter on that day made fifty miles
on a southwesterly course. During the two succeeding days, he continued
in this general direction. It was misty, and the coast was invisible,
but the sounding-line continued to show a depth of from forty to fifty
fathoms. In a council, concerning the deliberations of which Steller
has a very confused and incorrect account, it was decided, on July 25,
to sail slowly towards Petropavlovsk and, at intervals as wind and
weather permitted, to head for the north and west, in order to explore
the coast they had left.

They continued on their southwesterly course, and on the next morning,
July 26, they were off the Kadiak archipelago. In a latitude of
66° 30', and about sixteen miles toward the north, they saw a high
and projecting point, which Bering called St. Hermogenes, in honor
of the patron saint of the day. He thought that this point was a
continuation of the continent they had left behind them, and as such
it is represented on both Müller's and Krasilnikoff's manuscript
maps in the archives of the Admiralty. On his third voyage, Cook
explored the Kadiak group, which he too had assumed to be a part
of the mainland. He now found that Bering's promontory was a small
island east of Afognak, but out of respect for Bering, he retained the
original name. Krusenstern also calls it St. Hermogenes Island, but
later the Russians changed it to Euratchey Island, on account of the
great number of marmots there, and since the United. States came into
possession of it, the name has been translated, and it is now known as
Marmot Island.[82] Steller has not a single word in his diary about
St. Hermogenes, and besides, his account at this point is full of

"Consequently, until July 26," he says, "we sailed along the coast, as
these gentlemen thought it was necessary to follow it, while it would
have been sufficient, at intervals of a hundred versts, to have sailed
a degree or two toward the north." He thus blames them for not having
followed the method which at about that time they had agreed upon, and
later did follow. His story of their having, for the first five days,
sailed along the coast, simply proves, in connection with a series of
other incidents in his work, that things were not entered in his diary
daily, but written down later from memory; hence its value as proof is
considerably diminished.

Along the southeastern coast of Kadiak the voyage was very dangerous.
The average depth was twenty-five fathoms; the water was very roily,
the weather heavy with fog and rain, and the wind violent. Not until
the 31st of July was the weather clear enough for an observation, when
they found themselves in a latitude of 54° 49', and had passed the
Kadiak archipelago.

In accordance with the plan adopted, they here veered to the northwest
to seek the mainland for the purpose of determining its trend. On
the night of August 1 (and 2), they suddenly approached land, having
only four fathoms of water below the keel. There was a heavy fog,
no wind, and a swift current, but they succeeded in shifting about
and getting out into eighteen fathoms of water, where they anchored
to await daybreak. In the morning, at eight o'clock, a small island
was seen at a distance of four miles. It was three miles long, with
an east to west trend. A long reef extended out into the sea from
the eastern point, seen by them in a direction E. S. E. by E. In the
evening they weighed anchor, having a heavy fog, and on the next
morning, the island was seen at a distance of seven geographical miles
toward the south. Its latitude was calculated as 55° 32', but as all
of Bering's determinations of latitude on his return voyage from
America show an error of from 30' to 45' less than the true latitude,
it must be concluded that the island was in latitude 56° and some
minutes. He called the island St. Stephen from the calendar day, but
his crew or lieutenants must have called it Foggy Island (Tumannoi),
as even Krasilnikoff's manuscript map, in the possession of the
Admiralty, has this name. Later the cartography of this region became
considerably confused. The name St. Stephen disappeared. Cook called
another island Fog Island, while it became customary to consider the
island discovered by Bering as identical with Ukamok (Chirikoff Island,
Vancouver's Island), where the Russians had a colony, and thus the
island itself was finally lost to geography. Notwithstanding the fact
that Admiral Krusenstern, in a clever essay, has given an able review
of the literature pertaining to this question, and has shown that where
Bering saw St. Stephen, Cook, Sarycheff, and Vancouver likewise saw an
island, different from Ukamok, and regardless of the fact that for
these reasons he restored St. Stephen on his map, Lieutenant Sokoloff,
who most recently, in Russian literature, has treated Bering's voyage
to America, has wholly disregarded Krusenstern's essay, and says
that St. Stephen is identical with Ukamok. Sokoloff's essay is very
superficial, and, compared with Krusenstern's weighty reasons, is based
on mere supposition. But, although the map of the North Pacific, in
the Russian Admiralty (1844), has a Tumannoi Island (that is, Foggy
Island, St. Stephen) somewhat northeast of Ukamok, it must be admitted
that, until the United States undertakes a new and careful survey of
the Aliaska peninsula and its southern surroundings, this question
can not be thoroughly decided, probable as it may be that Bering and
Krusenstern are both right.

August 3, the voyage was continued toward the northwest. In a latitude
of 56° (according to Steller) they saw the high snow-capped mountain
peaks of the Aliaska peninsula in a direction N. N. W. by W., but on
account of stormy and foggy weather they sought, with an easterly wind,
to get back into their main course. Thus they reached, August 4, the
Jefdokjejefski Islands in a direction S. S. E. 3/4 by E., at a distance
of twenty miles from 55° 45' N. These form a group of seven high and
rocky islands, which on Russian maps still bears the same name, but in
West Europe this name has been displaced, and they are usually called
the Semidi, or Semidin, Islands, the name of the largest of the group.

On August 7, they found themselves south of the Jefdokjejefski Islands.
But now misfortunes began to pour in upon them. They encountered
adverse winds which continued with but few interruptions during the
succeeding months. The St. Peter was tossed about on the turbulent
and unfamiliar waters of the Aleutian archipelago, where the crew
experienced an adventure so fraught with suffering and dire events
that it is quite beyond compare in the history of discoveries. At the
same time, the scurvy got the upper hand. Bering had a severe attack
which rendered him unfit for service. With his illness the bonds of
discipline were relaxed. Under these circumstances there was called,
on the 10th of August, an extraordinary council, in which all the
officers participated. At this meeting it was finally decided to give
up the charting of the American coast, and immediately start out upon
the direct route homeward on parallel 52°, the latitude of Avacha. The
whole crew, from the highest to the lowest, signed this resolution.
The facts taken into consideration were that September had been fixed
as the extreme limit of time within which to return home, and that
they were then in the middle of August. Avacha was at least 1600 miles
distant, autumn was at hand with dark nights and stormy weather, and
sixteen of the crew were already sick with the scurvy.

With a strong head-wind, in raw and foggy weather, and now and then
overtaken by fierce storms, they worked their way slowly along
until the 27th of August. The condition of affairs on board had
grown continually worse, when it was finally announced that through
carelessness and irregularity the supply of water had been reduced to
twenty-five casks, a quantity that could not possibly suffice for
the 1200 miles which, according to their calculations, yet remained.
Hence it was necessary once more to find land to take in water, and
on the 27th the St. Peter's prow was again headed for Aliaska. They
sailed north one degree and a half, and after a lapse of three days
they reached a multitude of high islands, behind which the coast of the
mainland arose in the distance.

August 30, the St. Peter lay at anchor off the Shumagins, a group of
thirteen treeless, barren, and rocky islands near the coast of Aliaska.
The journal gives their situation as latitude 54° 48' N. and longitude
35° 30' E. from Avacha. While the latitude as here determined has the
usual error, referred to several times before, the longitude has an
error of 6-1/2°. Among these islands the first death on board occurred.
It was the sailor Shumagin, who, on the 30th, died in the hands of
his mates as they were taking him ashore. The islands were named in
honor of him. On the whole the situation was most deplorable. Bering
had fallen away so much in his illness that he could not stand, and
the others that were sick were carried ashore, and lay scattered along
the coast, giving this a very sad and sorrowful aspect. Confusion and
uncertainty grew apace, as those in command could not maintain their
authority. Waxel and Khitroff, the highest in command, bandied words,
whereas the situation demanded firmness and vigor. The only one that
preserved any manner of self-possession and forethought was Steller.
He immediately went ashore, examined the vegetation of the island,
and collected a large number of anti-scorbutic plants, especially
scurvy-grass and berries, with which, in the course of a week, he
succeeded in restoring Bering to sufficient strength to be able to use
his limbs. Through the use of the same remedies the other sufferers
were relieved. But Steller thought also of the future. The medicine
chest contained "plasters and salves for half an army," but only
extremely few real medicines, and hence he suggested to Lieut. Waxel,
who was then in command, that he send a number of sailors ashore to
gather anti-scorbutic plants, but this excellent and timely advice was

Furthermore, Steller used all his influence to procure good water. He
went ashore with the sailors for this purpose, and as they began to dip
water from the first pool they found, one, too, which was connected
with the sea during high tide, he directed them to fresh springs a
little farther in the interior, but the crew sent some samples on
board, and from there came the report that the water was good enough.
Thus it was that a new cause of disease--in spite of Steller's
protestations--was added to all the others. The water was brackish, and
on standing in the casks became unfit for use.

On the whole the stay at the Shumagins, which was unnecessarily
prolonged, was very unfortunate. The St. Peter lay at anchor south of
them in a very exposed position. On the evening of August 29, a fire
was seen on one of the islands, and on this account, Khitroff wished to
explore them more thoroughly, although Waxel firmly opposed releasing
both of the ship's boats under the present dangerous circumstances.
By applying to Bering, who was in the cabin, and hardly understood
the situation, Khitroff had his way, and left the ship with the yawl
and five men. He was gone four days, during which time the St. Peter
was forced to lie at anchor, while a favorable east wind might have
carried them several hundred miles toward home. The yawl was dashed to
pieces off one of the neighboring islands, and no more came from the
expedition than that Lieutenant Waxel, under great difficulty, found
it necessary to rescue the six shipwrecked adventurers. Moreover,
they experienced a somewhat uninteresting clash with the Innuit
(Esquimo)[83] inhabitants of the Aliaska peninsula, of which Müller and
Steller both give a detailed account.


[81] Note 62.

[82] Note 63.

[83] For a full description of these people see H. H. Bancroft, Native
Races, Vol. I.--TR.



The St. Peter left the Shumagin Islands September 6, and sailed
southward to resume the direct course. The weather was very bad, with
alternating fogs, mist, and storms. A west wind prevailed almost
continuously. Now and then a regular hurricane crossed their course.
If occasionally they had a favorable breeze, it seemed to last but
a few hours. "I know no harder, more fatiguing life," says one of
the St. Peter's officers, "than to sail an unknown sea. I speak from
experience, and with truth can say that during the five months I spent
on this voyage, without seeing any place of which the latitude and
longitude had been fixed, I did not have many hours of quiet sleep. We
were in constant danger and uncertainty."

As a last resort, they even thought of returning to America, or of
reaching Japan. For several days they were swept along by a storm.
September 23, the second death occurred, and on the 24th they again
saw, to their great astonishment, land toward the north. They were
then on about the 51st parallel. They were of the opinion that they
were fourteen degrees from the Shumagins, and supposed that they were
21° 39' from Avacha, which of course was very erroneous, for they were
in the vicinity of the present Atka. As they saw behind the islands a
high, snow-capped mountain, which, from the calendar day, they called
St. Johannes, they supposed the land to be a continuation of the
American continent.

During the next seventeen days, from the 25th of September until the
11th of October, they carried their lower sails only, and were driven
by a stormy west wind five degrees toward the southeast to a latitude
of 48°. "The wind," says Steller, "seemed as if it issued forth from
a flue, with such a whistling, roaring and rumbling, that we expected
every moment to lose mast and rudder, or to see the ship crushed
between the breakers. The dashing of a heavy sea against the vessel
sounded like the report of a cannon, and even the old, experienced
mate, Andreas Hesselberg, assured us that during a sailor's life of
fifty years he had not before seen such a sea." No one was able to
stand at his post. The ship was at the mercy of the angry elements.
Half of the crew were sick and feeble, the other half well from dire
necessity, but were confused and distracted by the great danger. For
many days no cooking could be done, and all they had that was fit to
eat was some burned ship-biscuits, and even these were on the point
of becoming exhausted. No one showed any firmness of purpose; their
courage was as "unsteady as their teeth." The officers now and then
thought of returning to America, but their plans changed as often as
the weather.

During the first week in October it became very cold; heavy storms of
hail and snow swept over the ship and made the work on board almost
unendurable. On the 6th the ship's supply of brandy gave out, and, as
the storm from the southwest still continued to rage, Waxel seriously
proposed to return to America and seek a harbor of refuge, as it would
be necessary in a few days, on account of the number on the sick list,
to resign the ship to the mercy of the waves.

Bering, however, refused to entertain this idea, and exhorted the
crew to make an offering to the church--the Russians to the church in
Petropavlovsk, the Lutherans to the church in Viborg, Finland, where
Bering had formerly resided.

As elsewhere on this whole voyage, Steller was here geographically
confused, and imagined that they were sailing in a latitude of 50-53°,
while in reality they were on the 48th parallel, and hence his
complaint that the officers would not sail to this parallel to get a
better breeze, signifies nothing. Müller gives the correct position of
the ship when he says that on the 12th of October it was in latitude
48° 18', but he too is wrong when he states that the weather did not
permit them to make an observation, for just at this time they had
fair weather and sunshine, and on the 11th, at noon, determined the
latitude as 48° 15' and the longitude as 27° east of Avacha. During
the succeeding ten days the weather was somewhat more favorable. Clear
weather, with heavy frosts, prevailed; some hail and snow fell, but
nevertheless they succeeded in making ten degrees on the parallel of
49° 30'. The condition on board was getting much worse. Poor water,
lack of bread and spirits, the cold and wet, vermin and anxiety,
undermined the last remnants of their powers of resistance. On the 19th
the grenadier Kisseloff, on the 20th the servant Charitonoff, and on
the 21st the soldier Luka Savjaloff, died. Even men apparently well
were unable to stand at their posts from sheer want and exhaustion.

Then the water supply threatened to give out. They had but fifteen
casks of water, a part of which was very poor. Waxel was again thinking
of searching for land toward the north, when a strong wind carried
them so far westward that they supposed they had passed all traces of
American regions. They then determined to keep their course on the 52°
of latitude, but on the following day, to their great astonishment,
they sighted the Aleutian Islands and made some new discoveries. On
October 25, at a distance of 8-1/2 geographical miles toward the
northwest, they saw a high, snow-capped island, which they called St.
Marcus. By an observation at noon its latitude was found to be 50° 50',
but as this island is our Amchitka, and as its southern extremity,
according to Admiral Sarycheff, is in a latitude of 51° 35', it is
evident that the St. Peter's determinations of latitude were constantly
from one-half to three-fourths of a degree less than the true
latitude. Later this fact had an extremely unfortunate effect on their
resolutions. On October 28, Kiska, which Bering called St. Stephen,
was discovered, besides three (in reality four) smaller islands east
of it, and, carried along toward the north by a southwesterly wind,
they sighted, on the morning of the 29th, some low islands, which are
supposed to have been the present Semichi Islands, situated east of
Attu. These islands, which to them appeared as one, were called St.
Abraham Island. According to the ship's journal they were seen at ten
o'clock in the morning at a distance of six miles toward the west, and
at noon ten miles in a direction W. S. W. It is evident that the St.
Peter sailed north of these islands, but as the latitude on that day
was determined as 52° 31', at least 45' too far south, and as the ship
undoubtedly on the 29th and 30th of October passed the Blizhni group
(the Nearer Aleutians) it is more than probable that the strait between
the most westerly of the Semichi Islands and Attu was seen from the
ship's deck, although the officers do not mention this island in the
journal, but simply indicate it on the chart. It is, however, referred
to by both Müller and Steller. The most westerly of the Semichi Islands
and Attu must be the former's Deception Islands. Steller applies all
of his acuteness of mind to show that they were the first two Kuriles.
Nothing shows better than this assertion how confused Steller was;
hence his unsparing attacks on Waxel, and his base insinuations,
are not of the least moment. "Betrayed and sold by two unscrupulous
leaders," he says, "we sailed, after October 31, in a northerly
direction from the 51st to the 56th parallel!" How unreasonable! They
were, already on the 30th, north of the 53d parallel. A sharp southwest
wind was blowing, several deaths were occurring daily, the helmsmen
were conducted to the wheel by companions so deathly sick that they
could scarcely walk, the ship's rigging and sails were fast giving
way, the weather was raw and damp, the nights dark and long, and all
attempts at the determination of latitude and longitude had about
ceased. Under these circumstances was it not worthy of all honor that
Waxel was still able to hold the vessel up to the wind at all and
approach the Commander Islands from Attu? In a short time the wind
veered to the east, and on November 4 (Steller has it the 5th), in a
latitude calculated at 53° 30', they saw an elevated coast in the west
at a distance of about sixteen miles. It is impossible to describe
the joy occasioned by this sight. The sick and half-dead crawled on
deck to see land once more, and all thanked God for their merciful
rescue. Bering, almost completely exhausted, was greatly revived, and
all thought of how they would rest and restore their health and vigor.
Hidden brandy casks were brought out, in order that by the Vodka's
assistance they might properly celebrate the happy return. And in the
first moments of their exultation even the officers rejoiced to think
that their calculations were not entirely wrong.

All were agreed that they were off the mouth of Avacha Bay, and in
the precipitous mountain sides of Copper Island they eagerly sought
for the promontories which mark the entrance to that bay. The channel
between Copper Island and Bering Island was hidden to their view,
hence they thought they had reached Kamchatka. When, a little later,
they saw through the mist the most northerly part of the strait, they
were for a short time not indisposed to believe that they were near
their home harbor. But soon an intense feeling of doubt seized them.
According to the ship's reckoning, they were yet forty miles from
Avacha. An observation at noon informed them they were at least one
degree farther north than this place, and before evening came on, the
coast-lines assumed an appearance that compelled them to give up all
thought of having reached home. But, as Bering on his first voyage
had not found land for several days' sailing east of the mouth of the
Kamchatka River, they still clung to the belief that they were off the
coast of the mainland. During the night, they stood to the north so as
to steer clear of land, as they feared a storm. With great difficulty
the topsails were taken in, but the feeble crew were obliged to leave
the other sails. In the night a storm from the east rent the starboard
shrouds of the mainmast so that it could no longer carry sail. The
next morning, a bright and magnificent November day, the whole crew
assembled for a final consultation.

All that could walk or crawl, officers as well as crew, dragged
themselves into the chief's cabin to hear the result. I have repeatedly
called attention to the fact that Bering did not have the sovereign
power with which the chief of an expedition is now-a-days endowed. The
terrible disease that had overpowered him still further lessened his
influence; but never had the rules and regulations appeared in worse
light than on this occasion. Waxel and Khitroff, who had resolved to
make a landing, sought both before and during the meeting to induce the
crew to vote for this resolution; but Bering opposed it and put forth
the last remnants of his strength and energy to rescue the expedition.
"We have still the foremast," he said, "and six casks of water. After
having endured so much suffering and hardship, we must risk everything
in order to reach Avacha." Waxel and Khitroff immediately endeavored
to counteract the influence of this good advice, but the subordinates
were in doubt, and would not sign any resolution except on the
condition that the officers expressly assured them of the fact that the
adjacent coast was Kamchatka. This Khitroff finally took upon himself
to do, and so partly through compulsion and partly through persuasion
the lieutenants succeeded in securing a majority for their proposition.
But even yet Bering sought to save his convictions, and appealed to the
reduced Lieutenant Ofzyn, who had had charge of the explorations from
the Obi to the Yenesei and was now serving as a sailor on board the
St. Peter; but as he immediately expressed his agreement with Bering,
he was in most abusive language driven from the cabin. Under these
circumstances Steller found it useless to support Bering. He confined
himself to certifying to the very great enervation of the crew. Before
the council adjourned, it was resolved to make for the coast, where the
lieutenants, in an open bay, expected to find a harbor.

Before an easy northeast breeze, the St. Peter drifted toward the
coast, without helmsman or commander. The chief lay at death's door
in his cabin, Waxel and Khitroff were seeking rest and quiet, and
not until the ship lay about four miles from land did Steller induce
Bering to order them on deck. They soon began to sound, and one verst
from shore they cast anchor. Night came on with bright moonlight. The
ebb-tide receded over the rocky beach, producing heavy breakers. In
these the ship was tossed about like a ball, until finally the cable
snapped. They now expected to be dashed against the rocks at any
moment. The confusion became indescribable. In order not to have a
corpse on board, the dead bodies of two of their companions were thrown
overboard. It had been the intention to take them ashore for burial.
At this juncture the second anchor was lost; but at the last moment,
just as the third was on the point of being cast, Ofzyn succeeded in
establishing order and keeping the anchor on board. The vessel glided
safely across the reefs, and in a few moments the boatswain and Ofzyn
were able to anchor in a sheltered place. The St. Peter was safe for
the time being. In this still and bright November night (the night
of Nov. 6, 1741) the ship was riding at anchor off the center of the
northeast coast of Bering Island, scarcely 600 yards from shore. Thus
ended this frightful adventure. Very fortunately, the ship had happened
to strike the only navigable channel on the east that leads to the
coast of the island.

It yet remains to determine with more exactness the place of stranding.
On this point literature offers no reliable information. I am aware
that Steller says that the vessel stranded on the northern coast of
the island, but this is not to be taken literally. After the St. Peter
had passed the northern point of Copper Island, which lies parallel
with the trend of Bering Island, it was carried west and southwest
by a northeasterly wind, and hence would strike the coast of Bering
Island off, or a few minutes north of, the northern extremity of Copper
Island. At this point the eastern coast of Bering Island recedes to
the west and forms that bay which the officers saw ahead. From this
it is evident that the place where the vessel ran ashore was four or
five miles north of the present Cape Khitroff. In Waxel's journal the
geographical position is entered as 55° 5' north latitude, but Fr.
Lütke gives it as latitude 54° 58' and longitude 193° 23' west from
Greenwich. On his large map of a part of the Aleutian Islands, with
Russian and French text, he marks the place of landing at this point
with these words: "_C'est près de cet endroit que le commandeur Bering
a fait naufrage_"[84] (_i. e._, in the vicinity of this place Bering
stranded). This place is at about the center of the eastern coast of
the island, which extends at least 28' farther north to Cape Waxel, and
hence only from a local point of view, just as it must have seemed to
Steller as the vessel approached land, can this receding part of the
coast be designated as the northern side of the island. The view here
set forth is further corroborated by many places in Steller's diary,
and by other accounts of the stay on the island.[85]


[84] Map III., Appendix.

[85] My view has been most strongly confirmed by the excellent
Norwegian naturalist, Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, of the Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, who in the years 1882-'84 passed eighteen
months on Bering island and circumnavigated it. In _Deutsche
Geographische Blätter_, 1885, he describes his trip and gives a good
contour map of the island, as well as of Bering's stranding-place,
which in honor of him is still called "Komandor," and is situated
in the place described above, on the northeastern coast of the
island.--_Author's Note to American Edition._

For Dr. Stejneger's final remarks on this point the reader is referred
to Note 64, in the Appendix, where will be found a letter to the



The island upon whose shores Bering, after a voyage of four months,
was cast, was a high, rocky, and uninviting country. The snowless
mountains of Plutonic rock, wild and jagged, arose perpendicularly
out of the sea, and deep ravines with seething mountain streams led
into the treeless interior.[86] There was snow on only the highest
peaks, and on this cold November night the coast appeared to the
shipwrecked unfortunates in all its naked and gloomy solitude, and
hence great was their surprise on landing to find the island teeming
with animal life, yet undisturbed by human habitation. The Commander
Islands, as the group is now called, consist of two large islands and
a few rocky islets. The most easterly of the former is Copper Island
(Mednie), about thirty-five miles long and three miles wide, covered
with high, steep, and jagged mountains, which lie athwart the main
trend of the island, S. E. to N. W., and terminate precipitously,
often perpendicularly, with a narrow strand at the base scarcely fifty
feet wide. On a somewhat larger scale, the same description applies
to Bering Island, which, according to Steller, is 23-1/2 geographical
miles long and nearly 3-1/4 wide. It is situated about 30 geographical
miles from Kamchatka, between latitude 54° 40' and 55° 25' north, and
longitude 165° 40' and 166° 40' east of Greenwich. Only on the west
coast, within the shelter of the Sea Lion Island (Arii Kamen) and a
lesser islet, is there a fairly good harbor, where the Russians later
founded the only colony of the island, consisting of a few Aleuts who
cultivate some vegetables, but maintain themselves principally by
hunting and fishing. For this purpose they have built, here and there
on the east coast, some earth-huts which are used only temporarily.
The very high mountains, having a trend from N. W. to S. E., almost
everywhere extend clear to the sea, and only here and there along the
mouths of the brooks do semicircular coves recede from 700 to 1300
yards into the interior. In Bering's day these coves or rookeries
contained a fauna entirely unmolested by human greed and love of chase,
developed according to nature's own laws, for which reason great
scientific interest attaches to the stranding of the St. Peter. Of this
animal life Steller gives us in his various works descriptions which
are unexcelled in power and fidelity. These have made Bering's second
voyage immortal. Naturalists will again and again turn to them. For
this reason it would seem that Steller had no ground for complaint that
Bering had taken him from his real field of investigation: Kamchatka--a
complaint made in our day by O. Peschel--for on Bering Island he first
found that field of labor and that material, the description of which
has immortalized his name.[87]


With the exception of the Arctic fox, the higher fauna of these islands
were found exclusively among the sea mammals. The most important furred
animal at that time was the sea-otter (_Enhydra lutris_, Linn.), which
lived in families on the coast during the whole year, especially,
however, in the winter. Its velvety fur brought about 100 rubles on the
Chinese border, and hence this animal later became the object of a most
eager search. Nordenskjöld says these otters have been driven away, not
only from Bering Island, but also from other grounds, where formerly
they were slaughtered by the thousand. This statement, however, is not
entirely correct. The sea-otter may still be found on Bering Island,
and on the adjacent Copper Island (Mednie) it is frequently found,
and is protected by just such laws as Nordenskjöld demands for its

The greatest number of marine animals here were found to belong to the
family of eared seals (_Otariidoe_); namely, the sea-lion (_Eumetopias
Stelleri_), from which oil is obtained, and the fur-seal (_Callorhinus
ursinus_), which is still the world's most important fur-bearing
animal. Since the close of the last century, the Russian government
has with great care sought to protect this animal, and has built up a
national enterprise which yields a large annual income, and which makes
it possible for the Russo-American company which has a lease of the
business, to kill annually about 30,000 seals and still increase the
stock. On this point, too, Nordenskjöld's statements are unreliable
and misleading. He puts the annual catch much too high, which, at the
time, caused no slight trouble between the Russian government and the

On the whole, it seems humiliating to West Europe that it is only
decried and tyrannical Russia that has understood how to protect this
useful animal. When Russian America, the present Alaska, in 1867
was sold to the United States, some of the best seal fisheries, the
Pribyloff Islands, were a part of the purchase. The United States has
found it profitable to retain the Russian regulations for seal hunting,
for those small islands alone yield the interest on the sum paid for
the whole territory.

The eared seals put in their appearance on the Commander Islands in the
spring, and are found in the rookeries by the hundreds of thousands
until August or September. They proved of the greatest importance for
the support of the shipwrecked expedition, and after the sea-otter for
a circuit of many miles had been driven away, they furnished a part of
the crew's daily means of sustenance.

But the most interesting animal on Bering Island was the sea-cow
(_Rhytina Stelleri_),[89] a very large and ponderous animal from eight
to ten meters long and weighing about three tons. It was related to
the dugong and lamantine of the southern seas, and the _manatus_ which
occurs in Florida and along the Gulf coast. Its habitat seems to
have been confined to the shores of the Commander Islands, where it
was found in great numbers. Its flesh was very excellent food. Later
it was eagerly sought after by the Siberian hunter, whose rapacity
exterminated the whole species in less than a generation. The last
specimen is said to have been killed in 1768, and hence museums have
been very unsuccessful in procuring skeletons of the animal. In his
"Voyage of the Vega," Nordenskjöld attempts to show that sea-cows were
seen much later, even as late as 1854; but as he bases his assumption
chiefly on the statements of some Aleutian natives, who, according
to what Dr. Leonhard Stejneger recently has proved, confounded the
sea-cow with a toothed whale (denticete), there seems to be no reason
whatever for modifying the results arrived at by Baer, Brandt, and

Without this animal wealth it would have gone hard with Bering's
expedition as it did later with the unfortunate La Pérouse, whose
monument has found a place in Petropavlovsk by the side of Bering's.
It would have been hopelessly lost on Bering Island. None of the
participants would have seen Asia again, none would even have survived
the winter 1741-42, for when the St. Peter stranded, there were on
board only a few barrels of junk, a small quantity of groats, and some
flour. The flour had been lying in leathern sacks for two years, and
in the stranding had been saturated with turbid sea water, and hence
was very unfit for food. How fatal, therefore, Waxel's and Khitroff's
opposition to Bering might have been.

It was the night between the 5th and 6th of November that the St. Peter
reached this coast. On the 6th the weather was calm and clear, but
the crew were kept on board from weakness and work, and only Steller
and Pleniser could go ashore with a few of the sick. They immediately
betook themselves to examining the country, and walked along the coast
on either side. Was this an island, or was it the mainland? Could
they expect to find human assistance, and could they reach home by
land? After two days of exploration, Steller succeeded in satisfying
himself on these points, although it was nearly six months before he
definitely ascertained that the place was an island. Unlike Kamchatka,
the country was treeless, having only a few trailing willows of the
thickness of a finger. The animals of the coast were entirely new and
strange, even to him, and showed no fear whatever. They had no sooner
left the ship, when they saw sea-otters, which they first supposed to
be bears or gluttons. Arctic foxes flocked about them in such numbers
that they could strike down three or four score of them in a couple of
hours. The most valuable fur-bearing animals stared at them curiously,
and along the coast Steller saw with wonderment whole herds of sea-cows
grazing on the luxuriant algæ of the strand. Not only he had never seen
this animal before, but even his Kamchatkan Cossack did not know it.
From this fact, Steller concluded that the island must be uninhabited.
As the trend of Kamchatka was not the same as that of the island, and
as the flora was nevertheless identical, and as he moreover found a
window frame of Russian workmanship that had been washed ashore, he was
convinced that the country must be a hitherto unknown island in the
vicinity of Kamchatka.

Bering shared this view, but the other officers still clung to their
illusions, and when Waxel, on the evening of the 6th, came ashore, he
even spoke of sending a message for conveyance. Steller, on the other
hand, began to make preparations for the winter. In the sand-banks,
near an adjacent mountain stream, he and his companions dug a pit and
made a roof of driftwood and articles of clothing. To cover up cracks
and crevices on the sides, they piled up the foxes they had killed.
He exerted himself to obtain wild fowl, seal-beef, and vegetable
nourishment for the sick, who were gradually taken ashore and placed
under sail tents upon the beach. Their condition was terrible. Some
died on deck as soon as they were removed from the close air of their
berths, others in the boat as they were being taken ashore, and still
others on the coast itself. All attempts at discipline were abandoned,
and those that were well grouped themselves into small companies,
according to their own pleasure and agreement. The sick and dying were
seen on every hand. Some complained of the cold, others of hunger and
thirst, and the majority of them were so afflicted with scurvy that
their gums, like a dark brown sponge, grew over and entirely covered
the teeth. The dead, before they could be buried, were devoured by
foxes, which in countless numbers flocked about, not even fearing to
attack the sick.

More than a week elapsed before the last of the sick were taken ashore.
On November 10, the Commander was removed. He was well protected
against the influence of the outer air, and was laid for the night
under a tent on the strand. It snowed heavily. Steller passed the
evening with him and marveled at his cheerfulness and his singular
contentment. They weighed the situation, and discussed the probability
of their whereabouts. Bering was no more inclined than Steller to think
that they had reached Kamchatka, or that their ship could be saved. The
next day he was carried on a stretcher to the sand pits and placed in
one of the huts by the side of Steller's. The few that were able to
work sought to construct huts for all. Driftwood was collected, pits
were dug and roofed, and provisions were brought from the ship. Steller
was both cook and physician--the soul of the enterprise. On November
13, the barrack to be used as a hospital was completed, and thither the
sick were immediately removed. But still the misery kept increasing.
Steller had already given up all hopes of Bering's recovery. Waxel,
who had been able to keep up as long as they were on the sea, now
hovered between life and death. There was special anxiety on account
of his low condition, as he was the only competent seaman that still
had any influence, since Khitroff, by his hot and impetuous temper,
had incurred the hatred of all. Moreover, those sent to reconnoiter,
returned with the news that in a westerly direction they could find
no connection with Kamchatka or discover the slightest trace of human
habitation. It became stormy; for several days the boat could not
venture out, and the ship, their only hope, lay very much exposed near
a rocky shore. The anchor was not a very good one, and there was great
danger that the vessel would be driven out to sea, or be dashed to
pieces on the rocks. The ten or twelve able-bodied men that were left,
being obliged to stand in icy water half a day at a time, soon gave
way under such burdens. Sickness and want were on every hand. Despair
stared them in the face, and not until November 25, when the vessel was
driven clear ashore and its keel buried deep in the sand, did their
condition seem more secure. They then went quietly to work to prepare
for the winter.

In December the whole crew was lodged in five underground huts
(dug-outs) on the bank of the stream near the place of landing.[91]
The ship's provisions were divided in such a way that every man daily
received a pound of flour and some groats, until the supply was
exhausted. But they had to depend principally upon the chase, and
subsisted almost exclusively upon the above mentioned marine animals
and a stranded whale. Each hut constituted a family with its own
economical affairs, and daily sent out one party to hunt and another
to carry wood from the strand. In this way they succeeded in struggling
through the winter, which on Bering Island is more characterized by
raging snowstorms (poorgas) than severe cold.

Meanwhile, death made sad havoc among them. Before they reached Bering
Island, their dead numbered twelve, the majority of whom died during
the last days of the voyage. During the landing and immediately
afterwards nine more were carried away. The next death did not
occur until November 22. It was the excellent and worthy mate, the
seventy-year-old Andreas Hesselberg, who had plowed the sea for fifty
years, and whose advice, had it been heeded, would have saved the
expedition. Then came no less than six deaths in rapid succession;
and finally in December the Commander and another officer died. The
last death occurred January 6, 1742. In all, thirty-one men out of
seventy-seven died on this ill-starred expedition.

When Bering exerted his last powers to prevent the stranding of the St.
Peter, he struggled for life. Before leaving Okhotsk he had contracted
a malignant ague, which diminished his powers of resistance, and on
the voyage to America scurvy was added to this. His sixty years of
age, his heavy build, the trials and tribulations he had experienced,
his subdued courage, and his disposition to quiet and inactivity,
all tended to aggravate this disease; but he would nevertheless,
says Steller, without doubt have recovered if he had gotten back to
Avacha, where he could have obtained proper nourishment and enjoyed the
comfort of a warm room. In a sandpit on the coast of Bering Island,
his condition was hopeless. For blubber, the only medicine at hand,
he had an unconquerable loathing. Nor were the frightful sufferings he
saw about him, his chagrin caused by the fate of the expedition, and
his anxiety for the future of his men, at all calculated to check his
disease. From hunger, cold, and grief he slowly pined away. "He was,
so to speak, buried alive. The sand kept continually rolling down upon
him from the sides of the pit and covered his feet. At first this was
removed, but finally he asked that it might remain, as it furnished him
with a little of the warmth he so sorely needed. Soon half of his body
was under the sand, so that after his death, his comrades had to exhume
him to give him a decent burial." He died on the 8th[92] of December,
1741, two hours before daybreak, from inflammation of the bowels.

"Sad as his death was," says Steller, "that intrepidity and seriousness
with which he prepared to meet death was most worthy of admiration." He
thanked God for having been his guide from youth, and for having given
him success through life. He sought in every way possible to encourage
his companions in misfortune to hopeful activity, and inspire them with
faith in Providence and the future. Notwithstanding his conviction
that they had been cast upon the shores of an unknown land, he was
not disposed to discourage the others by expressing himself on this
point. On the 9th of December his body was interred in the vicinity of
the huts, between the graves of the second mate and the steward. At
the departure from the island there was placed upon his grave a plain
wooden cross, which also served to show that the island belonged to
the Russian crown. This cross was renewed several times, and in the
sixties, so far as is known, twenty-four men erected a monument to his
honor in the governor's garden (the old churchyard) in Petropavlovsk,
where a monument to the unfortunate La Pérouse is also found, and where
Cook's successor, Captain Clerke, found his last resting place.

With Bering that mental power, which had been the life of these great
geographical expeditions and driven them forward toward their goal, was
gone. We have seen how his plans were conceived; how through long and
dreary years he struggled in Siberia to combine and execute plans and
purposes which only under the greatest difficulties could be combined
and executed; how by his quiet and persistent activity he endeavored
to bridge the chasm between means and measures, between ability to
do and a will to do,--a condition typical of the Russian society of
that time. We have seen how he surmounted the obstacles presented by a
far-off and unwilling government, a severe climate, poor assistants,
and an inexperienced force of men. We have accompanied him on his last
expedition, which seems like the closing scene of a tragedy, and like
this ends with the death of the hero.

He was torn away in the midst of his activity. Through his enterprise a
great continent was scientifically explored, a vast Arctic coast, the
longest in the world, was charted, a new route to the western world was
found, and the way paved for Russian civilization beyond the Pacific,
while enormous sources of wealth--a Siberian Eldorado--were opened
on the Aleutian Islands for the fur-hunter and adventurer. Russian
authors have compared Bering with Columbus and Cook. He certainly
was for Russia, the land of his adoption, what the two former were
for Spain and England--a great discoverer, an honest, hardy, and
indefatigable pioneer for knowledge, science, and commerce. He led
Europe's youngest marine out upon explorations that will ever stand in
history as glorious pages, and as living testimony of what Northern
perseverance is able to accomplish even with most humble means.

And yet he only partly succeeded in accomplishing what for sixteen
years had been the object of his endeavors. His voyage to America was
merely a reconnoitering expedition, which, in the following summer, was
to have been repeated with better equipments.

Chirikoff, who on the expedition in 1741, about simultaneously with
Bering,[93] discovered a more southerly part of the North American
coast, returned to Avacha in such an impaired condition that, in 1742,
he could undertake no enterprise of importance.[94] On account of
the great misfortunes that overwhelmed the expedition, Laptjef was
prevented from completing the charting of Kamchatka. Thus we see that
on every side of Bering's grave lay unfinished tasks. These tasks
were inherited from the Dano-Russian explorer by his great successor
Cook, and other younger navigators. Moreover, his death occurred at
an extremely fatal period; for in these same dark December days while
Bering was struggling with death in the sandpits of Bering Island,
Biron, Münnich, and Ostermann lost their supremacy in St. Petersburg.
The Old Russian party, the opponents of Peter the Great's efforts at
reform, came into power, and during Elizabeth's inert administration,
all modern enterprises, the Northern Expedition among them, were
allowed to die a natural death. At Avacha and Okhotsk affairs wore
a sorrowful aspect. The forces of the expedition had been decimated
by sickness and death, their supplies were nearly exhausted, their
rigging and sails destroyed by wind and weather, the vessels more or
less unseaworthy, and East Siberia drained and devastated by famine;
only Bering's great powers of perseverance could have collected the
vanishing forces for a last endeavor. On September 23, 1743, an
imperial decree put an end to any further undertakings. Meanwhile,
the crew of the St. Peter had, in August, 1742, returned to Avacha
in a boat made from the timber of the stranded vessel. Chirikoff had
previously departed for Okhotsk, to which place also Spangberg returned
from his third voyage to Japan. Gradually the forces of the various
expeditions gathered in Tomsk, where, first under the supervision of
Spangberg and Chirikoff, and later that of Waxel and other officers,
they remained until 1745. Thus ended the Great Northern Expedition.

But Bering's ill fate pursued him even after death. During the
reign of Empress Elizabeth, nothing was done to make known the
results of these great and expensive explorations, nor to establish
the reputation of the discoverers. The reports of Bering and his
co-workers, which make whole cartloads of manuscript, were buried in
the archives of the Admiralty. Only now and then did a meager, and
usually incorrect, account come to the knowledge of the world. Some
of the geographers of that day insisted that the Russian government
system of suppression merely aimed at excluding the rest of Europe
from that profitable maritime trade through the Arctic seas for which
the Northern Expedition had opened the way. Ignorance on this subject
was so great that Joseph de l'Isle ventured even before the French
Academy to refer to himself as the originator of the expedition,--to
rob Bering of his dearly bought honor, and to proclaim to the world
that Bering accomplished no more on this expedition than his own
shipwreck and death. With Buache he published a book and a map to
prove his statements. The name De l'Isle at that time carried with
it such weight that he might have succeeded in deceiving the world
for a time, if G. F. Müller had not, in an anonymous pamphlet written
in French, disproved these falsehoods. But even Müller's sketch in
_Sammlung Russischer Geschichte_ (1758), the first connected account
published concerning these expeditions, has great defects, as we have
seen, not only from the standpoint of historical accuracy, but it also
shows a lack of appreciation of the geographical results obtained by
Bering. Hence it would have been impossible for Cook to render the
discoverer long-deferred justice, if he had not known D'Anville's map
and Dr. Campbell's essay. Thus it was West Europe that last century
rescued Bering's name from oblivion. In our day the Russian Admiralty
has had this vast archival material examined and partly published, but
much must yet be done before a detailed account can be given of the
enterprises we have attempted to sketch, or of the man who was the
soul of them all. We hardly feel disposed, with Professor Von Baer,
to urge the erection of a monument in St. Petersburg, as a restitution
for long forgetfulness, former misjudgment, and lack of appreciation.
As Russia's first navigator and first great discoverer, he certainly
has merited such a distinction. We shall, however, consider our
task accomplished, if we have succeeded in giving in these pages a
reliable account of the life and character of a man who deserves to
be remembered, not only by that nation which must ever count Vitus
Bering among her good and faithful sons, but also by the country that
harvested the fruits of his labors.




[86] Dr. Stejneger, to whom the translator is indebted for various
notes and corrections of scientific interest, says: "The mountains
which Steller and his companions saw were not eruptive rocks. The
whole island consists of a more or less coarsely grained sandstone or
conglomerate,--Plutonic rock cropping out only in isolated spots. The
mountain streams of Bering island are anything but 'seething'; on the
contrary, they are as a rule very quiet."

[87] Dr. Stejneger, ever on the alert to honor Steller, says in
_Deutsche Geographische Blätter_, 1885: "It was due to Steller that not
only a majority of the participants survived, but that the expedition
won a lasting name in the history of science. Bering left his name
to the island upon which he died, and the group to which it belongs.
Komandorski (Commander Islands), was named after his rank. Moreover,
Bering Sea, Bering Strait, a peninsula in Asia, and a bay in America
have been named in honor of him. But what is there in these regions
to remind one of the immortal Steller, the Herodotus of these distant
lands? Search the map of the island of which he has given such a
spirited description. His name is nowhere to be found, while three
capes have received the names of Bering's lieutenants and helmsmen, who
were the authors of the whole misfortune: Waxel, Khitroff, and Jushin.
The man that rescued and immortalized the expedition has fallen into
oblivion. I consider it an honor that it has been granted to me to
render long deferred justice to this great German investigator. The
highest mountain peak on Bering's Island will henceforth be called
Mount Steller."

In speaking of a description by Steller of some rock formations on the
western coast that resembled ancient ruins, Dr. S. says in the same
article: "I landed at the only remaining one of these arches, under
which Steller had probably walked. It is a fine specimen of a natural
triumphal arch, standing quite by itself. In honor of Steller I called
it Steller's Triumphal Arch. No monument marks his resting-place on
the desert steppes of Siberia; Russia has never forgiven him for his
ingenuous criticism of the injustice of her courts; but Steller's name
will nevertheless live. His Triumphal Arch, gaily decked with the
variegated lichens _Caloplaca murorum_ and _crenulata_, and adorned
with the lovely white golden-eyed blossoms of the _Chrysanthemum
arcticum_, is a monument that does fitting honor to the great

[88] Dr. Stejneger, in "Contributions to the History of the Commander
Islands," published in Proceedings of U.S. Nat. Museum, 1882, p. 86,
calls attention to Professor Nordenskjöld's erroneous statement, and
gives the exact figures.--TR.

[89] The correct name of this animal, Dr. Stejneger informs me, is
_Rhytina gigas_.--TR.

[90] Dr. Stejneger says, after a very careful and exhaustive discussion
of this question: "It may thus be regarded as fairly proved that the
unknown cetacean, which in 1846 was observed near the southern end of
Bering Island, was a female narwhal. But, whatever it may have been,
one thing is absolutely sure: _it was not a sea-cow_!" For references
see Note 65.--TR.

[91] These pits or earth huts lay in a direction from north to south.
Next to Steller's hut was the miserable pit in which Vitus Bering, a
hundred and forty-eight years ago, drew his last breath. August 30,
1882, Dr. Stejneger visited this place, of which he gives the following
description in _Deutsche Geographische Blätter_, 1885, pp. 265-6: "I
was first attracted to the ruins of the huts in which the shipwrecked
crew passed a winter a hundred and forty-one years previous. On a
projecting edge of the western slope of the mountain, in the northern
corner of the valley, stands a large Greek cross. Tradition says that
Bering was buried there. The present cross is of recent date. The old
one, erected by the Russian company, was shattered by a storm, but
the stump may still be seen. No one thought of erecting a new one,
until Hr. von Grebnitski attended to the matter. Directly southeast
of the cross, close to the edge of a steep declivity, about twenty
feet high, lie the fairly well preserved ruins of the house. The walls
are of peat, about three feet high and three feet thick. They were
covered with a very luxuriant growth of grass, and, moreover, swarms of
mosquitoes helped make investigation very unpleasant work. * * * The
floor was covered with a thick turf, the removal of which was out of
the question. I probed the whole surface with a bayonet, but nothing
of significance was found. * * * A part of the crew were undoubtedly
lodged in the sandpits under the barrow, of which Steller speaks. And
in fact traces of the pits still exist, although they no longer have
any definite form, being, moreover, so overgrown with vegetation that
nothing could be ascertained from them. Some Arctic foxes had burrowed
there. At our approach the whole brood came out, and in close proximity
stood curiously gazing at us. Steller and his companions are gone, but
the Arctic fox, which played them so many tricks, is still there. The
pits, now merely an irregular heap of sand filled with burrows, lie
close to the brook, where it curves sharply toward the west, cutting
into the declivity on which the house stands."--_Author's Note to
American Edition._

[92] Old style

[93] Bancroft, who, strange to say, calls Chirikoff "the hero of this
expedition," gives a detailed account of the voyage of the St. Paul
after its separation from the St. Peter. Lauridsen does not do this,
for the obvious reason that he considers Chirikoff's expedition of but
comparatively little importance, although he doubtless would be willing
to second Bancroft's estimate of Chirikoff as a man "who, amongst
Russians, was the noblest and most chivalrous of them all." There seems
to be no reason to doubt that Chirikoff sighted the coast of Northwest
America about thirty-six hours before Bering did. On the 11th of July
signs of land were seen, and on the 15th land was sighted in latitude
55° 21', according to Bancroft, who, at this point in his narrative,
exclaims: "Thus was the great discovery achieved." Chirikoff's return
voyage was fraught with hardships and suffering. Before the expedition
reached Avacha Bay, October 8, twenty-one were lost. The pilot Yelagin
alone of all the officers could appear on deck, and he finally brought
the ship into the harbor of Petropavlovsk. Croyère, the astronomer,
died as soon as he was exposed to the air on deck. Chirikoff, very ill,
was landed the same day. Eventful as the expedition in some respects
was, it nevertheless possesses no particular geographical or scientific
interest, for there is great doubt even as to where landings were made
and what islands were seen. Bancroft speaks very cautiously on these
points. Sokoloff, however, declares emphatically that the land first
discovered by Chirikoff was a slight projection of the coast between
Capes Addington and Bartholomew of Vancouver's map. Moreover, the lands
in these regions received no names from the St. Paul, whereas the
St. Peter forged, along the islands of the North Pacific, a chain of
names, many of which are still the permanent possession of geography.
When it is furthermore remembered that Chirikoff was one of Bering's
assistants, that the fitting out of the expedition was under the
charge of Bering, and that upon him rested all responsibility to the
government, it is certainly impossible for any fair minded person to
accept the statement that Chirikoff "must ever be regarded as the hero
of this expedition." Bancroft does not, however, approve of Sokoloff's
vainglorious expressions concerning "the achievements of Chirikoff,
a true Russian, as against Bering the Dane." Principally in the one
fact of a few hours' priority of discovery, Solokoff finds proof of
"the superiority of the Russians in scientific navigation!" Bancroft
occasionally reminds the reader that "Russian historians are perhaps a
little inclined to magnify the faults of Bering the Dane," and in this
instance administers to Sokoloff the following reproof: "So the learner
is often apt to grow bold and impudent and despise the teacher. The
great Peter was not above learning navigation from Bering the Dane." In
speaking of Bering's death, Bancroft further retrieves himself--indeed,
seems quite to supersede his former opinion--by saying: "Thus passed
from earth, as nameless tens of thousands have done, the illustrious
commander of the expeditions which had disclosed the separation of the
two worlds and discovered north-westernmost America." See History of
Alaska, p. 68 _et seq._--TR.

[94] Note 66.




From the instructions forwarded to me by His Imperial Highness, I
learn that the Imperial College of Admiralty is inclined to the
opinion that the expedition is lingering along idly on account of
my heedlessness. This arouses in me no little anxiety for fear that
I may incur undeserved wrath; yet in this matter I await the will
of his Imperial Highness and the most gracious resolution of the
Imperial College. For although, from the time the expedition was put
in my charge until the present time, I have faithfully and diligently
sought as quickly as possible to build vessels, put out to sea, and
begin the execution of my work proper, everything has suffered delay
on account of unexpected obstacles over which I have had no control.
Prior to our arrival in Yakutsk, not a single pood of provisions had
been sent to Okhotsk for the crew there, not a single vessel had been
built for transporting these provisions and supplies, and not a single
magazine had been built at the stopping places on the Maya and Yudoma
rivers. No laborers were to be had, and no arrangements whatsoever
had been made by the Siberian government officials, notwithstanding
the fact that an imperial ukase had ordered these things. We have
done all this. We built transports, demanded laborers from Yakutsk,
and with great difficulty brought our provisions in these transports
to Yudomskaya Krest,--yes, with superhuman efforts our command and
these laborers--since even upon my demand but very few were sent--also
brought the supplies at Yudomskaya Krest (12,000 poods of flour and
rice) to Okhotsk. Moreover, at the stopping place on the Maya, at
the mouth of the Yudoma, at the Cross, and on the Urak, we erected
magazines and dwellings for the forces, and also built four winter-huts
between Yudomskaya Krest and Urak as places of refuge during the
winter. Furthermore, in accordance with our plans, we built, in 1736,
at the stopping place on the Urak, fifteen, and during this year, 1737,
sixty-five vessels on which to float the provisions down the Urak. Of
these, forty-two are still at the place of construction, the remaining
thirty-seven having departed with provisions in 1735. All of this has
been done under my orders, not by the government officials of Siberia.

In Yakutsk, where I was at that time staying, we built two vessels,
the boat Irkutsk and the sloop Yakutsk, and in 1735 sent them out on
the expeditions assigned to them. We took pains to provision them
well, and furthermore sent four barges to the mouth of the Lena with
additional provisions for them. In 1736 the Yakutsk had the misfortune
to lose its chief, Lieut. Lassenius, and many of the crew. Others
were hopelessly ill, and hence, as I feared that the work assigned to
this expedition would not be accomplished, I was obliged to man the
vessel anew from Yakutsk. The sick were taken to Yakutsk to be nursed.
I did all that was possible for them, and by the help of God they were
saved. For these same two ships I sent, in 1736, from the provisions
of my command, two lighters with provisions, and during the present
year, 1737, I have likewise sent a boat to the mouth of the Lena, as
the provisions sent in 1735 were nearly exhausted. But from the voivode
in Yakutsk we received no support whatever. From this it is evident
that my stay in Yakutsk was necessarily prolonged. Nor was it possible
for me to go to Okhotsk with my men until I had sent some provisions
ahead. Otherwise I should have taken the risk of starving them to
death, putting an end to all hopes of accomplishing anything, and thus
incurring a heavy responsibility. Some of my men remained in Yakutsk
in charge of the affairs of the expedition there, and to forward
provisions. Others remained at the Maya harbor, Yudomskaya Krest,
and at the Urak landing, to guard the magazines and attend to the
transportation of necessaries to Okhotsk, for it is not yet possible to
feed so many at Okhotsk. The fact that the voivode in Yakutsk made such
long delay in appointing commissioners to receive and send me supplies,
prevented me from keeping my men together and availing myself of their
assistance. As early as June 2, 1735, I demanded the appointment of
three commissioners and such assistants as I thought necessary, to be
stationed along the route. The authorities at Yakutsk did not comply
until the present year, 1737, and then only after repeated demands on
my part. But if I had neglected to attend to these matters, and had
hastened the departure to Okhotsk, the voivode--in my absence--would
have done nothing, and it remains to be seen how the transportation
to Yudomskaya Krest will be attended to. * * * As the difficulties
with which we have had to contend are very obvious, and although as a
consequence the immediate starting out of the expedition is improbable,
I can, nevertheless, conscientiously say that I do not see how I could
have in a greater degree hastened the work of the expedition, or how
I could have intensified the zeal with which I have worked from the
very beginning. Through this report I therefore most humbly seek at the
hands of the Admiralty a considerate judgment, and hope that it will
show that matters have not been delayed through my carelessness.

It is on account of these obstacles, together with the fact that
there was much work to be done in Okhotsk, that I have been unable
to prepare, in a short time, the ships necessary for the voyage. My
command has had to work at Spangberg's ships, which are now ready.
But also in Okhotsk, on the "Cat" (Koschka), where these vessels and
packet-boats are being built, everything was bare and desolate. There
was not a building there,--nowhere to stay. Trees and grass do not grow
there, and are not found in the vicinity on account of the gravel. In
spite of the fact that the region is so barren, it is nevertheless
very well suited for ship-building. It is a good place for launching,
for starting out, and as a harbor of refuge for these ships. There is,
in fact, no better place on this coast. Hence, according to Spangberg's
directions, a house was built on the "Cat" for the officers, and
barracks and huts for the men. For these buildings our men hauled the
clay, made the tiles, brought wood from a distance of three to four
miles, and carried fresh water from a distance of about two miles; for
although the Koschka is situated at the mouth of the Okhota, the water
in the river is very salty on account of the tide-water. Moreover, we
have built storehouses and a powder magazine. I enclose three diagrams,
showing what has been done in the years 1735, 1736, and 1737. My men
in Okhotsk are now preparing ship-biscuits for the voyages, and are
floating the necessary timber for the boats twenty miles down the
river. They burn the charcoal used in forging, and the necessary pitch
must be prepared and brought from Kamchatka, as there is no pitch-pine
in the vicinity of Okhotsk.

In addition to this we are obliged to make our own dog-sledges, and
on these bring our provisions from Yudomskaya Krest to the Urak
landing. There is, too, much other work in Okhotsk that must be done in
preference to ship-building, for it is quite impossible to get anything
in the way of food except the legal military provisions, consisting
of flour and groats. I must state, in this connection, that in the
summer some cattle are sent with the transports from Yakutsk. These are
obtained at the regular price and are distributed among the crews; but
on account of the great distance, and the reluctance of the Yakuts to
sell to others than the yassak collectors, except when in great need,
the supply has been limited.

Notwithstanding the fact that the authorities at Okhotsk were directed
to prepare fish for the expedition, I found that nothing whatever had
been done in this regard; but, on the contrary, they monopolized the
supplies of the Tunguses, who furnished my first expedition with an
abundance of fish, and upon whom I had depended. For this reason we
are forced to give the men leave of absence in the summer, so that
they may obtain food by fishing, thus causing a loss of time and
neglect of the work of the expedition. Our force might be divided
into different parties, for ship-building, fishing, and miscellaneous
work, but we have not found it expedient to do this. Especially on
account of the fact that many have been assigned to the work of
transportation, there are not as many engaged in ship-building as
necessary, or as was ordered by the Imperial College of Admiralty.
Lack of sufficient provisions has prevented this. Here in Okhotsk we
have but a small number of laborers. The rest, for whom there will be
no provisions until in the spring, we have sent to Yudomskaya Krest to
bring provisions and other necessary supplies on dog-sledges to the
Urak landing, and to construct at this place twenty new barges for use
in the spring of 1738. New barges must be built every year, for those
that are floated down the Urak can not be returned on account of the
swiftness of the current. They are, however, used for other purposes
in Okhotsk. It takes four men ten days to build a barge, and four
or five to man one. I most respectfully ask the Imperial College of
Admiralty to consider the number of men employed at this work, and what
they are accomplishing. All of this, too, is being done by my forces.
From the government officer in Okhotsk, Skornjakoff-Pissarjeff, we
have not, since the day of our arrival here up to the present time,
received the slightest assistance in transportation, ship-building,
or anything else whatsoever. Nor have we any hope of obtaining any
such assistance in the future. And even if we should demand support
from him, we would only have long and fruitless negotiations with him,
for while in Yakutsk, he sent me a written notification (February 28,
1737), refusing to assist in the transportation from Yudomskaya Krest
to Okhotsk.

In addition to the facts here adduced, together with my earlier
reports to the Imperial College of Admiralty, wherein I have given an
account of my efforts for the progress of the enterprise and shown
the impossibility of an early consummation of the main object of
my expedition, I appeal to the testimony of all the officers of my
command. All of which is respectfully submitted.

                                     BERING, _Commander_.


[95] Abridged from the Russian.


1. List of Russian Naval Officers. St. Petersburg, 1882.--V. Berch: The
First Russian Admirals.--Scheltema: _Rusland en de Nederlanden_, III.,
p. 287.--L. Daae: _Normænd og Danske i Rusland_.

As Berch hints that Bering had many enemies in the Department of the
Marine, I have made inquiries on this point. Admiral Th. Wessalgo
informs me that Berch's account is entirely without foundation. Bering
demanded and got his discharge in 1724, because he was dissatisfied
with the regulations governing promotions.

2. _Sammlung Russ. Geschichte_, III., p. 50.--P. Avril's Accounts of
America, collected in Smolensk, 1686.--Vaugondie: _Memoires_, p. 4.
_Les géographes des 16' et 17' siècles ont toujours pensé que la mer
separait l'Asie de l'Amérique._

See also a very interesting essay on the first Russian accounts of
America: The Great Land, Bolshaia Zemlia, in the Memoirs of the
Department of Hydrography (_Zapiski_), Vol. IX., p. 78.

The name Anian Strait has arisen through a misunderstanding of Marco
Polo's book (lib. III., cap. 5). His Ania is no doubt the present Anam,
but the Dutch cartographers thought that this land was in Northeast
Asia, and called the strait that was said to separate the continents
the Strait of Anian. The name appears for the first time on Gerh.
Mercator's famous maritime chart of 1569.

Dr. Soph. Ruge: Fretum Aniam, Dresden, 1873, p. 13.

3. G. F. Müller, in _Schreiben eines Russ_. _Officiers von der Flotte_
p. 14, seeks to take to himself all the honor for our knowledge
of Deshneff's journey, but this is not tenable. See _Beiträge zur
Kenntniss des russischen Reiches_, XVI., 44. Bering did not collect
his information concerning Deshneff in Kamchatka, but in Yakutsk, and
referred Müller to this matter.

A. Strindberg: _P. J. v. Strahlenberg_, in the Swedish Society for
Anthropology and Geography, 1879, No. 6.

4. V. Berch: The First Voyage of the Russians, pp. 2-5.

5. Bering's report to the Admiralty, in The First Voyage of the
Russians, p. 14, together with his original account in _Description
géographique, historique de l'empire de la Chine. Par le Père_ J. B. Du
Halde. La Hague, 1736, IV., 562.

6. G. W. Steller: _Beschreibung v. dem Lande Kamtschatka_. Frankfurt,

Krasheninikoff: The History of Kamtschatka. Glocester, 1764.

7. A species of bears-foot, _Sphondylium foliolis pinnatifides_. Cleff.

8. Bering's fear of the Chukchees may seem in our day to put him
in a bad light; but they who are familiar with the history of this
people know that at the time of Bering they were very warlike. Both
Schestakoff and Pavlutski fell in combat with them. _Neue nordische
Beiträge_, I., 245.

J. Bulitsheff: _Reise in Ostsibirien_. Leipzig, 1858, p. 33.

9. The ship's journal, kept by Lieut. P. Chaplin, is the basis of this
presentation. The first Voyage of the Russians, pp. 31-65. Von Baer has
used it to some extent, but no other West European author.

In Bering Strait there are two Diomede islands. The boundary line
between Russia and North America passes between them. The Russian
island is called Ratmanoff or Imaklit, the American Krusenstern or
Ingalisek. Sea W. H. Dall: Alaska, Boston, 1870, p. 249.

10. That Bering himself was the author, would seem to be shown by the
fact that Weber who knew and associated with Bering, uses _verbatim_
the same expressions concerning the first expedition. See Weber: _Das
veränderte Russland_, III., 157.

11. Cook and King: Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. III., 244.--The only
place where I have found any testimony to show that America was seen
from the Gabriel is a chart by J. N. De l'Isle: "_Carte Génerale des
Découvertes de l'Admiral de Fonte_," Paris, 1752, on which chart,
opposite the Bering peninsula, a coast line is represented with the
words: "_Terres vues par M. Spangberg en 1728, frequentées à présent
par les Russes, qui en apportent de très belles fourrures_."

12. The Academy's map, 1737.--Müller's map, 1758.

13. See A. Th. v. Middendorff: _Reise in den Aeussersten Norden und
Osten Sibiriens_., IV., 56.

Concerning Bering's determinations of longitude and latitude, O.
Peschel says: "_Auf der ganzen Erde gibt es vielleicht keine wichtigere
Ortsbestimmung, als die von Petropaulovski, insofern von ihr die
mathematischen Längen in der Beringsstrasse abhängen, welche die
Erdveste in zwei grosse Inseln trennt. Mit lebhafter Freude gewahrt
man, dass schon der Entdecker Bering auf seiner ersten Fahrt trotz
der Unvollkommenheit seiner Instrumente die Längen von Okhotsk, die
Südspitze Kamchatkas und die Ostspitze Asiens, bis auf Bruchtheile
eines Grades richtig bestimmte."--Geschichte der Erdkunde_, pp. 655-56.

A list of Bering's determinations is found in Harris's Collection of
Voyages, II., 1021, London, 1748.

About the middle of the eighteenth century there was a violent attack
on Bering's determinations. Samuel Engel, Vaugondie, and Bushing tried
to show that according to these Asia had been put too far east. S.
Engel: _Remarques sur la partie de la relation du voyage du Capt.
Cook qui concerne le détroit entre l'Asie et l'Amérique_. Berne,
1781.--M. D. Vaugondie: _Mémoire sur les pays de l'Asie_, etc., Paris,
1774.--Bushing's Magazine, VIII., IX.

14. Cook and King: Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, III., 473: "In justice
to the memory of Bering, I must say that he has delineated the coast
very well, and fixed the latitude and longitude of the points better
than could be expected from the methods he had to go by. This judgment
is not formed from Mr. Müller's account of the voyage or the chart
prefixed to his book, but from Dr. Campbell's account of it in his
edition of Harris's Collection and a map thereto annexed, which is
both more circumstantial and accurate than that of Mr. Müller." The
chart which Cook refers to is a copy of Bering's own chart as given by

Concerning East Cape, Cook says: "I must conclude, as Bering did before
me, that this is the most eastern point of Asia," p. 470.

16. See Steller's various works, especially the introduction to the one
on Kamchatka, where it is stated that Bering returned "_ohne doch das
geringste entdeckt zu haben_." This introduction was written by J. B.
S. (Scherer).

16. In Petermann's _Mittheilungen_, 1879, p. 163, Dr. Lindemann
says that Bering turned back "without having seen, strange to say,
either the Diomedes or the American coast." The author's authority is
evidently W. H. Dall, an extremely unfortunate historian. The latter
says: "Bering, naturally timid, hesitating, and indolent, determined
to go no farther for fear of being frozen in, and returned through the
Strait--strange to say--without seeing the Diomedes or the American
coast." See Dall: Alaska and its Resources. Boston, 1870, p. 297.

17. _Geschichte der Entdeckungen im Norden_, p. 463.

18. C. C. Rafn: _Grönlands historiske Mindesmærker_. Copenhagen, 1838,

19. Hazii: _Karten von dem Russ. Reiche_, Nürnberg, 1788.--T. C.
Lotter: _Carte géogr. de Siberie_, Augsburg.

20. Harris's Collection of Voyages, II., 1021, Note 34.

21. V. Berch: The First Voyage of the Russians.

22. _Beiträge zur Kenntniss des Russ. Reiches_, XVI.

23. The name appears earlier on the chart which accompanies Gmelin's
_Reise durch Sibirien_, IV., 1752, and in Steller's _Reise von
Kamtschatka nach Amerika_. But both of these authors must here be
considered an echo of Müller.

24. See Müller's own review of the Russians' early knowledge of
the peninsula in Vol. III. of _Sammlung Russ. Geschichte_. Even as
late as 1762 the Cossacks could travel among the Chukchees only in
disguise.--Pallas: _N. Nord. Beiträge_, I., 245.--During Billings's
expedition hostilities were still smoldering.--East Cape is 600 miles
from Anadyrskoi Ostrog.

26. J. D. Cochrane has, in Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey,
London, 1825, App. p. 299, attempted to establish Pavlutski's route,
unsuccessfully, however, we think. On the whole, accounts and opinions
concerning Pavlutski are so uncertain, that it is impossible by means
of the literature on this point, to give a final opinion. See Fr.
Lütke: _Voyage autour du monde_, II., 238. "_Sauer dit que Pavlovtsky
vint jusqu'au détroit de Bering; ce qui, au reste, n'est pas en lui
même vraisenable_."

26. Pallas: _N. Nord. Beiträge_. I. Chart.--Martin Sauer: An Account of
Com. Billings's Geog. and Astr. Expedition. 1785-94. Chart.

27. M. Sauer: An Account, etc., p. 252, Note.--Fr. Lütke: _Voyage
autour du monde_, II., 238. Note and chart: _Carte de la Baie de Sct.
Croix. Levée par les emb. de la Corvette le Seniavine_, 1828, where the
original Serdze Kamen is found in its proper place with the original
Chukchee name, _Linglingay_.

28. Steller: _Beschreibung von dem Lande Kamtschatka_, p. 15. Steller
sways back and forth between Müller's views and the account that
he himself obtained of the real state of affairs. He met Müller in
West Siberia in 1739, when the latter was filled with his supposed
epoch-making discoveries in Yakutsk archives. In _Reise nach Amerika_,
p. 6, Steller says: "_So verblieb es nichts desto weniger auf Seiten
der damals gebrauchten Officiere bey einer kurzen Untersuchung des
Landes Kamtschatka, von Lopatka bis zu dem sogenannten Serze Kamen,
welche bey weitem das Tschuktschiske Vorgebirge noch nicht ist._" He
has so little knowledge of Bering's work that he can immediately go
on to say: "_Gwosdew ist viel weiter und bis 66 Grad Norderbreite

29. How varying the views on this subject have been even in the
narrowest academical circles may be seen from the following: In a
German edition of _Atlas Russicus_, 1745, Serdze Kamen appears as a
mountain in the center of the Chukchee peninsula. (By Calque, placed at
my disposal by A. Thornam, of St. Petersburg. In the French edition the
name is not found at all.) On the maps which accompany J. E. Fischer's
_Sibirische Geschichte_, 1768, and Ginelin's work, Serze Kamen and
Kammenoie Serdze are found, but in different places of Bering Strait,
both different from Müller's.

30. Cook and King: Voyage, etc., I., 469: "Thus far Bering proceeded in
1728, that is, to this head, which Müller says is called Serdze Kamen
on account of a rock upon it shaped like a heart. But I conceive that
Mr. Müller's knowledge of these parts is very imperfect. There are many
elevated rocks upon this cape, and possibly some one or other of them
may have the shape of a heart.

"At four in the morning the cape, which, on the authority of Müller, we
have called Serdze Kamen, bore S. S. West." III., 261.

31. Gvosdjeff's _Reise_. Note 121.

32. _Beiträge zur Kenntniss, etc._, XVI., 44. Note.

33. Philip Johann Tabbert, ennobled in 1707 and called Von
Strahlenberg, was born at Stralsund in 1676, and taken captive after
the battle of Pultowa as captain in the army of Charles XII. He was
banished to Tobolsk, traveled some years with Dr. Messerschmidt in
Siberia, and together with other Swedish officers he made several maps
of Siberia, which, without his knowledge or consent, were published
in Holland by Bentinck, 1726, in _L'Histoire des Tartares_, etc., and
reprinted in various works such as _La Russie asiatique, tirée de la
Carte donnée par ordre du feu Czar_. In 1730, Strahlenberg's own work
appeared in Leipsic; it is marked by its minute knowledge of details.
His representation of the Chukchees peninsula deserves attention as
evidence of the knowledge the Cossacks had of this region, whereas
there is nothing original in his representation of the coast-lines of
Eastern Asia. Baer says that Strahlenberg's book and map was made by
a Leipsic student, and that whatever it contains that is of value is
taken from Messerschmidt. _Beiträge_, XVI., 126. Note 18.

34. This map is reproduced in Nordenskjöld's Voyage of the Vega.

35. Steller: _Reiss von Kamtschatka_, etc., p. 6, where a very
erroneous and unreasonable account of the result of Bering's first
expedition is given.

36. Kiriloff's map is found in _Russici imperii Tab. Generalis et
Specialis_, Vol. XLIII.

37. Strangely enough, no original copy seems to have remained in the
archives of the Admiralty. Berch insists that no such copy exists. I
investigated the matter in 1883, and later Mr. A. Thornam has examined
the archives for this purpose, but without result.

38. Du Halde writes: _Ce Capitaine revint á Sct. Petersburg le premier
jour de Mars de l'année 1730, et apporta une relation succinte de
son voyage, avec la Carte qu'il en avoit dressée. Cette Carte fût
envoyée au Sérénissime Roi de Pologne, comme une présent digne de son
attention et de sa curiosité, et Sa Majesteté a bien voulu qu'elle me
fût communiquée en me permettant d'en faire tel usage qu'il me plairot.
J'ai cru que le Public me scauroit quelque gré de l'avoir ajoutée à
toutes celles que je lui avois promises._

In the Swedish geographical journal, "Ymer," 1884, there is an
interesting account by E. W. Dahlgren of the copies of Bering's chart
in Sweden.

39. Gmelin: _Reise durch Sibirien_. Introduction.

40. Bering's proposition was formulated as follows: (1) As the waves,
according to my observation, are smaller east of Kamchatka [than in
the open ocean], and, moreover, as I have on Karaginski Island found
large fir-trees washed ashore, which do not grow in Kamchatka, it is my
opinion that America or some intervening land can not be very far from
Kamchatka (150-200 geographical miles). In case this is so, commercial
relations with that country that would be to the advantage of the
Russian empire could be established. This matter can be investigated,
if a vessel is built of from 45 to 50 tons burden. (2) This vessel
ought to be built at Kamchatka, as at this place more available timber
is found than at other places [on the east coast]; moreover, provisions
for the crew, fish and other animals are easily obtained. Besides,
greater assistance can be obtained from the Kamchadales than from the
inhabitants of Okhotsk. (3) It would not be without advantage to find
out the sea-route from Okhotsk or Kamchatka to the mouth of the Amoor
and farther on to the Japan Islands, as we there have hopes of finding
inhabited regions. It would be well to establish commercial relations
with them, especially with the Japanese, which promises the Russian
empire no small advantage in the future. For this purpose a ship of
the same size or a little smaller than the first might be built. (4)
The expenses of this expedition in addition to the salaries and the
materials, which could not be secured there, but would have to be taken
along from here or Siberia, would, including the transport, amount to
ten or twelve thousand rubles. (5) If it is considered advisable to
chart the northern coast of Siberia, especially from the mouth of the
Obi to the Yenisei and hence to the Lena, this can be done by sailing
down these rivers or by expeditions by land, as these regions are under
Russian rule.

                                                 VITUS BERING.
  April 30, 1730.

These propositions were first published by Berch in "The First
Russian Admirals," and later reprinted by Sokoloff in _Zapiski
Hydrograficheskago Departamenta_ (Journal of Hydr. Dept.), St.
Petersburg, IX., Appendix.

41. Part II. is based upon the works of Von Baer, Middendorff, and

42. General List of Russian Naval Officers, St. Petersburg, 1882.

43. _Zapiski_, IX., 250.--_Beiträge zur Kenntniss_, etc.,
Introduction.--Sokoloff: "Chirikoff's Voyage to America," St.
Petersburg, 1849.--Bering's wife was suspected of having acquired
goods illegally, but there is no proof of this. When she, in the year
1738, returned from Siberia, the Senate, influenced by the numerous
denunciations of her conduct, issued an ukase that her goods should
be examined. At the inspection on the borders of Siberia it was found
that she had a suspiciously large quantity of furs and other things.
She rather overawed the authorities, however, and returned to St.
Petersburg unmolested. Sokoloff gives no information as to whether the
furs were illegally obtained or not. She was very much younger than
Bering; in 1744, on making application for a widow's pension, she gave
her age as 39 years.

44. The author is indebted to Admiral Th. Wessalgo for the following
archival accounts.

_The Admiralty to Captain Bering, Feb. 26, 1736._

    Your expedition is a very protracted one, and apparently it
    is being conducted somewhat carelessly on your part, which is
    shown by the fact that it has taken nearly two years to reach
    Yakutsk. Moreover, it appears from your report that your stay in
    Yakutsk will be too long; in fact, there seems to be no reason
    to hope that you will succeed in getting any farther. As a
    consequence of all this the Admiralty is extremely dissatisfied
    with your arrangements, and will not let matters go on without an
    investigation. If in the future any negligence whatever occurs, an
    investigation will be instituted against you for insubordination
    to the decrees of His Imperial Highness and for negligence in an
    affair of state.

_The Admiralty to Captain Bering, Jan. 31, 1737._

    Inasmuch as you--in spite of the express orders of the Admiralty,
    wherein it is stated that your expedition is protracted and is
    carelessly conducted--have not reported to the Admiralty the cause
    of your delay, and say nothing about when you intend to leave
    Yakutsk, you are hereby deprived of your supplemental salary, and
    will receive only the regular salary, until you send such a report,
    and until you continue on the expedition which has been entrusted
    to you.

_The Admiralty to Captain, Bering, Jan. 23, 1738._

    From Captain Chirikoff there has been received by the Admiralty
    a report from Okhotsk with an accompanying copy of a proposition
    laid before you by Chirikoff, suggesting measures for a more speedy
    completion of the Kamchatka expedition under your charge. As no
    steps had been taken by you in this direction as late as May 8 of
    the same year, the Admiralty has concluded to demand an answer
    from you, if any plans have been made on the basis of Chirikoff's
    proposition, and if, contrary to our expectations, nothing has been
    done, we desire to know _why_,--since, according to the orders
    issued to you Feb. 21, 1737, you were instructed to show zeal and
    solicitude for the activity of the expedition, and that any neglect
    on your part would make you liable to the same punishment as that
    suffered by Lieutenants Muravjeff and Pauloff for negligence in
    conducting expeditions entrusted to them.[96]

    (These officers were reduced to the rank of ordinary sailors.)

    According to Bering's reports there were engaged in the Great
    Northern Expedition, excluding the Academists and the crew on the
    White Sea expedition, the following number of men:

              In the year 1737  1738  1739

  From the Admiralty       259   254   256
  From Siberia             324   320   320
                           ---   ---   ---
                  Total    583   574   576

45. To an inquiry directed to the Russian Admiralty asking the reason
for Bering's long stay in Yakutsk, Admiral Th. Wessalgo has given me
the following information:

"In Yakutsk, which was the base of operations for the whole expedition,
Bering was to secure wood, iron, and other materials for the building
of the necessary ships, and, what is most important, he was to secure
provisions, of which a yearly supply of 16,000 poods was necessary.
Although the furnishing of provisions had been assigned to the Siberian
authorities, they did nothing, in spite of urgent and repeated demands;
hence Bering had to undertake this work himself. Moreover, the immense
amount of materials and provisions collected here was to be sent to
Okhotsk, a task which presented insurmountable obstacles: the country
was a wild and desolate region, the local authorities refused their
co-operation in promoting the enterprise, there was constant contention
and disagreement among the various officers in charge, who were more
concerned in their own personal interests than in the common weal, and
Bering himself--was a weak character."

46. Stuckenberg: _Hydrographie des russischen Reiches_,
II.--Krasheninikoff: _Kamtschatka_.--Pallas: _N. Nord, Beiträge_,
IV.--Sarycheff: _Reise_, etc.--_Zapiski_, etc.: IX., 331.--Schuyler:
Peter the Great, II., 544.

47. On account of the Chukchee war, D. Laptjef was to go from Kolyma
to Anadyr and from there send word to Bering for a vessel or to go
himself to Kamchatka for it,--in either case he was to sail around
the northeast point of Asia, and reach the mouth of the Kolyma. When
he, in 1741, arrived at Anadyr, Bering had departed for America, and
hence he could do no more than build some boats, by means of which he,
in 1742, charted the lower course of the Anadyr, and returned in 1743
to Yakutsk. _Zapiski_, etc.: IX., pp. 314-327.--_Beiträge_, XVI., pp.

48. Baer says: _Es hätte dieser Expedition auch die volle Anerkennung
nicht fehlen können, die man ihnen jetzt erst zollen muss, nachdem die
verwandte Nordküste von Amerika nach vielfachen Versuchen noch immer
nicht ganz bekannt worden ist. Auch hätten wir den Britten zeigen
können, wie eine solche Küste aufgenommen werden muss, nämlich in
kleinen Fahrzengen, zwar mit weniger Comfort, aber mit mehr Sicherheit
des Erfolges.--Beiträge_, XVI., 123.

Middendorff: _Reise_, etc., IV., Part I., 49, says: _Mit gerechtem
Stolze dürfen wir aber in Erinnerung rufen, dass zu seiner Zeit
Russland im Osten des Nordens durch seine "Nordische Expedition" nicht
minder Grosses vollbracht, als die Britten im Westen_.

Petermann's _Mittheilungen_, 1873, p. 11: _Der leitende Gedanke zur
Aussendung jener Reihe grossartiger Expeditionen war der Wunsch * * *
eine nordöstliche Durchfahrt zu entdecken_.

49. A. Stuxberg: _Nordöstpassagens Historie_. Stockholm, 1880.--Th. M.
Fries: _Nordöstpassagen_. Nær og Fjærn 1880, No, 417.

A. E. Nordenskjöld: The Voyage of the Vega.--In a long and favorable
review of Nordenskjöld's book in _Beiträge zur Kenntniss des russ.
Reiches_, St. Petersburg, 1883, VI., 325, the Academist Fr. Schmidt
expresses himself in the following manner concerning Nordenskjöld's
presentation of the history of the Northeast passage: _Die dritte
Gruppe bilden endlich die russischen Reisen im Eismeer und an den
Küsten desselben, die ebenfalls ausführlich behandelt werden. Hier
fällt es uns nun auf, dass im Bestreben, jedem das Seine zukommen zu
lassen, die weniger bekannten Mitarbeiter an der Erweiterung unsrer
Kenntniss, denen wir gewiss ihre Verdienste nicht absprechen wollen,
fast möchte ich sagen auf Kosten unsrer berühmten gelehrten Forscher
hervorgezogen scheinen, von denen namentlich Wrangell und auch Baer
an mehreren Stellen Angriffe zu erdulden haben, die wir nicht für
gerechtfertigt halten können. Auch Lütke * * * kommt sehr kurz weg._

This criticism might be applied to other parts of Nordenskjöld's
historical writings.

50. St. Petersburg Academy's Memoirs (Bull. phys. math. Tom. III., No.

51. _Beiträge_, etc., IX., 495. Baer says: _Es ist höchst erfreulich,
die mit schweren Opfern erkämpften Verdienste unserer Marine-Officiere
vom vorigen Jahrhundert von dem neuesten Reisenden in vollem Maase
anerkannt zu sehen.--Nach Herrn v. Middendorf ist nun gerade
Tscheljuskin der beharrlichste und genaueste unter den Theilnehmern
jener Expedition gewesen. Wir wollen ihn also gern vollständig in
integrum restituiren._

52. _Zapiski_, etc., IX., 308. Chelyuskin's original account is found
in the same volume, pp. 61-65. The German translation appears in
Petermann's _Mittheilungen_, 1873, p. 11.

53. Cook and King: Voyage, etc., III., 391: "For the group of
islands, consisting of the Three Sisters, Kunashir and Zellany (which
in D'Anville's Atlas are placed in the track we had just crossed)
being, by this means, demonstratively removed from that situation, an
additional proof is obtained of their lying to the westward, where
Spangberg actually places them, between the long. 142° and 147°. But
as this space is occupied, in the French charts, by that part of the
supposed Land of Jeso and Staten Island, Mr. Müller's opinion becomes
extremely probable that they are all the same lands; and, as no reasons
appear for doubting Spangberg's accuracy, we have ventured in our
general map to reinstate the Three Sisters, Zellany and Kunashir, in
their proper situation, and have entirely omitted the rest."--Cf. O.
Peschel's account, p. 467, 2d Ed.

54. W. Coxe: An Account of the Russian Discoveries. London, 1781.

55. The pre-Bering explorations of Northwest America did not extend
beyond the northern boundary of California, and had not succeeded in
ascertaining a correct outline of the country. In the oldest maps
of the new world, that of Ortelius (1570), Mercator (1585), Ramusio
(1606), and W. Blaew (1635), California is represented as a peninsula;
but on the maps of later cartographers as W. Samson (1659), Wischer
(1660), J. Blaew, Jansen (1662), Fr. de Witt (1666), and Nic. Samson
(1667), the country is represented as an island, and this view was held
until G. de L'Isle (1720) adopted in his atlas the old cartography of
the peninsula.

Gvosdjeff's expedition to Bering's Strait in 1732 is but slightly
and very imperfectly known in West Europe. It was undertaken by
Ivan Fedoroff, Moschkoff, who had accompanied Bering on his first
expedition, and the surveyor Gvosdjeff. Fedoroff is thus the real
discoverer of America from the east, and the world has given Gvosdjeff
the honor simply for the reason that the reports of Fedoroff and his
associate were lost and he himself died the year after. There is an
interesting account of this enterprise in _Zapiski_, etc., IX., 78.

56. G. W. Steller: _Reise von Kamtschatka nach Amerika_. St.
Petersburg, 1793.

57. R. Greenhow: History of Oregon, California and the Northwest
Coast of North America, 3d ed., New York, 1845, p. 216.--W. H. Dall:
Alaska and its Resources. Boston, 1870, p. 257.--Milet-Mureau: _Voyage
de la Pérouse autour du Monde_, II., 142-144 and Note.--Vancouver:
Voyage, etc.--Oltmann's: _Untersuchungen über die Geographie des neuen
Continentes_. Paris, 1810, II.

58. A. J. v. Krusenstern: _Hydrographie_, etc., p. 226,--O. Peschel:
_Geschichte der Erdkunde_, 2d ed., p. 463 and Note.

59. According to Wrangell, Dall and others, both Indians and Eskimos
inhabit this region. Clans of the great Tinné tribe, Ugalenses, stay
during the summer on the Atna River, and during the winter on Kayak
Island; but on the coast of the continent from Ice Bay to the Atna
River there are also found Innuits, the Ugalakmuts.--See Vahl: Alaska,
p. 39. The people that Bering found on the island must, according to
Sauer, have been Chugachees, Eskimos that live about Prince William's

See also H. H. Bancroft, Native Races, San Francisco, 1882, Vol. I.--TR.

60. Gavrila Sarycheff: _Achtjährige Reise im nordöstlichen Sibirien,
auf dem Eismeer und dem nordöstlichen Ocean_. Leipzig, 1806, II.,
57.--Sauer: An Account, etc., p. 198. "This perfectly answers to
Steller's account of the Cape St. Elias of Bering, and is undoubtedly
the very spot where Steller landed, and where the things above
mentioned were left in the cellar. Thus it is very plain that Cape
St. Elias is not the southern point of Montague Island, but Kay's
Island."--G. Shelikoff: _Erste und Zweite Reise_. St. Petersburg, 1793.

61. _Zapiski_, IX., 303.--The Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1882. Maps.

62. Dall: Alaska and its Resources, p. 300.--Vahl in his work on Alaska
repeats Dall's opinion in a somewhat milder form.

63. Krusenstern: _Recueil de Mémoires Hydrogr._, II., 72.--Cook and
King: Voyage, III., 384.--The Geodetic Coast Survey, 1882.

64. Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, under date of June 9, 1889, writes the
translator: "The locality indicated in Lütke's map is correct. It is
consequently on the eastern side of the island. Steller's statement
that it was on the northern side is easily explained as follows:
The valley where he landed opens toward the northeast, and the
corresponding valley on the other side of the island runs southwest;
this side consequently became the southern side. At the time of the
shipwreck the magnetic deviation was much more easterly than it is now,
so that _by compass_ the direction of the eastern coast was much more
E.-W. than at present. Throughout his description of Bering Island,
Steller says north and south, where we would say east and west.

"My visit to this locality in 1882, I have described in detail in
_Deutsche Geographische Blätter_ (1885), where you will also find a
sketch map of it, as well as a plan of the house in which the survivors

"Since I wrote my account, I have been able to consult Steller's own
description of the wintering, and I find that the house which I have
described and given the plan of, was the one they built in the spring,
after the freshet which drove them out of the dug-outs (_Gruben_) on
the bank of the creek, traces of which are still visible. I also found
a number of relics at a place which I took to be the point where they
rebuilt the vessel. In a letter Mr. Lauridsen suggested to me the
probability that I had found not this place, but the locality where the
store-house was built, in which the men left what they could not carry
on the new vessel, and that the latter must have been built near the
southern end of the bay. After reading Steller's own account, however,
I feel absolutely certain that the ship was built at the northern end,
near the huts and dug-outs, at the place where I found the relics. It
is quite probable, however, that the store-house was built in very
close proximity, if not on the very spot."

65. Leonhard Stejneger: _Fra det yderste Osten_. Naturen, Vol. 8.
Kristiania, 1884, pp. 65-69.--Proceedings of the United States National
Museum, 1884. Investigations Relating to the Date of the Extermination
of Steller's Sea-Cow, by Leonhard Stejneger.--Henry W. Elliott: A
Monograph of the Seal Islands of Alaska, Washington, 1882.--_Neue
N. Beiträge_, II., 279.--G. W. Steller: _Ausf. Beschreibung von
sonderbaren Meerthieren_. Halle, 1753.--E. Reclus: _Geographie_, etc.,
VI., 794.

66. Concerning Chirikoff, full information is given in Sokoloff:
Chirikoff's Voyage to America, St. Petersburg, 1849 (Russian). He died
in 1748 at Moscow.

See also H. H. Bancroft, History of the Pacific States of North
America, Vol. XXXIII., History of Alaska. San Francisco, 1886.--TR.


[96] The author gives extracts from other reports of the same tenor,
which the translator has seen fit to omit, referring the reader for
further information on this subject to Bering's own report, p. 195 of
this volume.



Academists, 70, 78; leave Tobolsk, 81.

Academy of Science, Russian, 57.

Addington, cape, 189.

Admiralty Bay, 145.

Admiralty, Russian, dissatisfaction with Bering, 95.

Afgonak, island, 156.

Aïno, 124.

Akischis, strait, 124.

Alaska, 178.

Aldan, river, 23.

Aleutian Islands, 134, 140;
  discovery of, 167, 187.

Aleutians, Nearer, 168.

Aliaska, 161.

Amassoff, 18.

Amchitka, 167.

America Pars, 14.

Anadyr, fort, 42.

Anadyr, river, Cossacks at, 16;
  the Gabriel at, 30.

Anadyrsk, 46.

Anian, strait, 13, 15.

Anjou, 110.

Anna Ivanovna, 63.

Apraxin, 9.

Archangel Michael, ship, 100.

Arctic Coast, charting of, 62, 83.

Arctic expeditions, 107.

Arctic explorations, work of Russia and England in, 3.

Arctic foxes, 181.

Arii Kamen, 175.

Asia and America, boundary between,

Atka, island, 165.

Atna, estuary, 148.

Attu, island, 168.

Avacha, 127, 134, 170, 190.


Baikal, lake, 91.

Balshaya, river, 26.

Bancroft, H. H., note on, 64;
  note from, 73, 140;
  note on identity of Kayak and St. Elias, 149;
  note on, 188.

Baranoff Cliff, 109.

Barents, map of, 14.

Bartholomew, cape, 189.

Bear Islands, 18, 67.

Bellini, map by, 20, 118.

Berch, V., authority, 41;
  opinion of Bering, 52, 61.

Bering Bay, 144;
  incorrect location of, 146.

Bering Island, 51;
  discovery of, 169;
  description of, 174.

Bering Haven, 149.

Bering Peninsula, 67.

Bering, Rivière de, 145.

Bering Strait, discovery of, 32;
  Gvosdjeff in, 130.

Bering, Vitus, first expedition, 2;
  nativity, 6;
  in Baltic fleet, 9;
  in Sea of Azov and Black Sea, 10;
  promotions, 10;
  in Archangel, 10;
  home of, 11;
  discharge and re-appointment of, 11;
  plans for first expedition, 12;
  knowledge of Siberian geography, 19;
  starts on first expedition, 21;
  at Irkutsk, 22;
  at Yakutsk, 22;
  in relation to Serdze Kamen, 40;
  return to St. Petersburg, 42, 52;
  winters at the Fort, 50;
  recognition in West Europe, 57;
  map by, 57;
  plans for Great Northern Expedition, 61;
  recommendations to Senate, 65;
  instructions to, 66;
  chief of Great Northern Expedition, 72;
  estimate of, 76, 94;
  Russian name of, 77;
  report to Admiralty, 89, 195;
  accusations against, 94;
  wife of, 94;
  at Okhotsk, 99;
  at Avacha, 128;
  plans for expedition to America, 129;
  orders from Senate, 131, 134;
  taken ill, 140;
  discovers American coast, 140;
  stay off Kayak Island, 150;
  defense of, 152;
  determinations of lat., 158;
  removed from the St. Peter, 182;
  sickness of, 183;
  death of, 186;
  monument of, 187, 192;
  results, 187, 190;
  reports of, 190.

Betge, surgeon, 135.

Billings, map by, 45, 145, 148.

Biron, 64, 189.

Blanco, cape, 14, 37.

Blizhni Islands, 168.

Bolsheretsk, 26, 52, 119.

Borkhaya Bay, 92.

Boussale Channel, 120.

Brandt, 180.

Bredal, Peter, 9.

Broughton, Capt., at Kuriles, 120, 123.

Buache, 191.

Byistraya, river, 26.

Bykoff, river, 92.


California, 37.

Campbell, Dr., opinion of Bering, 29, 47, 57.

Chamisso, 137.

Chaplin, Peter, 21.

Charitonoff, 167.

Charlesvoix, Peter, _Histoire du Japan_, 20.

Chegatchoff, 135.

Chekin, 81.

Chelyuskin, 81, 109, 114, 116.

Chelyuskin, cape, 114.

Chirikoff, A., in first expedition, 21;
  instructions to, 66, 75, 77, 81, 95, 96, 103, 129, 131, 134, 135;
  on Pacific expedition, 139;
  results, 188;
  at Okhotsk, 190.

Chirikoff Island, 158.

Chi-Shima Islands, 119.

Chukotskoi, cape, doubled by Bering, 32, 44.

Chuckchee Peninsula, 40, 44, 133.

Chukli, island, 145.

Clerke, Capt., 187.

Commander Islands, 169;
  description of, 175;
  seals on, 179.

Controller Bay, 146.

Cook, Capt., 30;
  in Bering Strait, 36;
  opinion of Bering, 38, 39, 47, 48, 53, 57, 67, 112, 125, 137;
  Bering's place of landing, 144, 147, 156, 158, 191.

Copper, estuary, 148.

Copper Island, discovery of, 169;
  description of, 175;
  sea-otters on, 178.

Corea, 126.

Cossacks, 16.

Coxe, W., 125.

Cruys, C., made vice-admiral, 8.


Dall, W. H., opinion of Bering, 151.

Dalrymple, A., 39.

D'Anville, atlas of, 57.

Deception Islands, 168.

De l'Isle, G., 53 _et seq._;
  sketch of, 130.

De l'Isle, J. N., 18, 53, 56;
  sketch of, 130, 191.

De Löwenörn, Danish admiral, 39.

Deshneff, 16, 20, 110, 111.

Diomede Island, discovery of, 33;
  latitude of, 41.

Dixon, 144.

Dolgoruki, 64.

Du Halde, 32, 40.

Dwina, 67, 112.


Eared Seals, 178, 179.

East Cape, 32.

Endoguroff, 96.

Engel, Richard, 21.

Euratchey Island, 157.


Fairweather, Mt., 144, 145.

Figurnyi, island, 123.

Foggy Island, 158.

Forster, R., 39.

Fortuna, ship, launching of, 25, 100.

Franklin, 21, 68.

Fries, T. M., Prof., 112.

Fur Company, Russo-American, 178.


Gabriel, ship, 29, 41, 100, 119.

Gama, Juan de, 55, 133.

Gamaland, 55, 121, 130;
  situation of, 133, 134;
  search for, 139.

Germans and Frenchmen in Russian service, 53.

Gmelin, J. G., 68;
  opinion of Lassenius, 82, 91, 93.

Golovnin, 73.

Gordon, Admiral, 9.

Gore, Capt., 120.

Great Northern Expedition, 72;
  leaves St. Petersburg, 77;
  transportation of stores, 87;
  discontinuance of, 190;
  at Tomsk, 190.

Grib, Peder, 9.

Guanahani, 144.

Gvosdjeff, M., discovery of American coast by, 130.


Hammond, cape, 148.

Harris, P., 57.

Hartelpol, 135.

Hazius, 40.

Herzenberg, 9.

Hesselberg, 135, 166;
  death of, 185.

Holy Cross, bay, 31.

Homann, 16.

Hondius, J., 15.

Hondo, 54.

Hope (Nadeshda), ship, 100.


Ilarion, Rev., 21.

Ilim, river, 22.

Ilimsk, 22.

Innuit, 163.

Irkutsk, 72, 74.

Irkutsk, boat, 81.

Irtish, 21.

Iturup, 117, 124.

Ivanoff, 114.


Japan Islands, 62, 111;
  Spangberg's expedition to, 117 _et seq._

Jeço, 124, 133.

Jefdokjejefski Islands, 159.

Jelmerland, 109.

Jerimo, cape, 124.

Jushin, 135.


Kadiak Island, 157.

Khariulakh, river, 92, 93.

Kamchadales, 74.

Kamchatka, conquest of, 17, 118;
  charting of, 189.

Kamchatka, fort, 27.

Kamchatka, river, 30.

Kara Sea, 62, 109.

Kasanssoff, 94.

Kayak Island, 144;
  identity with St. Elias, 146.

Kazan, 78.

Ket, river, 22.

Khatanga, river, 116.

Khitroff, 135, 137, 141, 148, 156, 161, 170.

Khitroff, cape, 173.

Kiriloff, J. K., 52, 57, 65, 69;
  support of Bering, 73.

Kiska, island, 167.

Kisseloff, 167.

Kolessoff, 128.

Kolyma, 20.

Kompagniland, 54, 117, 133.

Konosir Island, 124.

Kosyrefski, I., explorations of, 17;
  as monk, 19, 52;
  at Kuriles, 118.

Kotzebue, 137.

Krasheninnikoff, 92.

Krassilnikoff, 66, 131, 156.

Krusenstern, 125, 146, 157;
  essay by, 158.

Kunashir, 123.

Kur, 12.

Kuriles, early knowledge of, 18;
  location of, 51;
  Spangberg's expedition to, 117, 118;
  charting of, 122.

Kurile Strait, 121.

Kushka, 99.


La Croyère, L. (L. De L'Isle), 66, 69, 78, 103;
  sketch of, 131.

La Pérouse, 67;
  at Kuriles, 120, 125, 144, 145.

La Pérouse Strait, 54.

Laptjef, C., 109.

Laptjef, D., 93, 109, 114, 189.

Larionoff, Lieut., 102.

Lassenius, Peter, arctic expedition of, 82, 92;
  death of, 93, 96.

Lau, surgeon, 135.

Lauridsen, Peter, reply to Nordenskjöld, 15.

Le Mesurier, cape, 146.

Lena River, 107, 109.

Liakhov Island, discovery of, 16.

Linglin Gaï, 45.

Lopatka, cape, 51.

Losseff, 89.

Lushin, 17;
  in Yakutsk, 19, 52, 119, 132.

Lütke, Admiral, defense of Bering, 38, 113.


Mackenzie, 21.

Malespina, 144.

Malygin, 109.

Marmot Island, 152, 157.

Martinier, 114.

Matmai, cape, 124.

Maya River, 23.

McClure, 113.

Mednie (Copper Island), 175.

Melnikoff, 67.

Menshikoff, 9, 86.

Mercator. G., 15.

Mexico, 66.

Middendorff, 110, 114, 115, 180.

Minin, 109.

Montague Island, 145, 148.

Monti, Bay de, 145.

Morison, George, 21

Müller, G. H., 32;
  opinion on Serdze Kamen, 42;
  at Yakutsk, 44, 53, 68, 91, 93, 118;
  refutes De L'Isle, 191.

Munk, Jens, 92.

Münnich, 189.


Nadeshda, island, 120.

Nertchinsk, treaty of, 16.

Niakina Cove, 127.

Niemann, Dr., 21.

Nipon, island, 54, 118, 121.
Nordenskjöld, review by, 15, 110, 113-115;
  note on, 116, 177-179.

Northeast passage, 13, 14;
  Bering's opinion of, 35;
  charting of, 36, 110, 125.

Northwest passage, 113.

Norwegians and Danes in service of Peter the Great, 7.

Notske, cape, 123.

Novaia Zemlia, 109, 111.

Novgorod, 78.

Nystad, peace of, 11.


Obdorsk, 81.

Obi River, 21, 107.

Obi, gulf, 100.

Ofzyn, Lieut., 79;
  at Obdorsk, 81;
  in Gulf of Obi, 93, 109;
  saves the St. Peter, 171, 172.

Okhotsk, arrival at, 24, 62, 79;
  building of, 99;
  fleet in, 103.

Okhotsk, sea of, explorations in, 26.

Olenek, 34, 92.

Ostermann, 64, 73, 189.

Ostrog, Kamchatka, 27.

Othere's, 114.


Pallas, 45.

Patience, bay, 123.

Patience, cape, 54.

Patiloff, 21.

Pavlutski, Capt., 43, 45, 83.

Peschel, O., 117, 118, 146.

Petchora, 107.

Peter the Great, Scandinavians in service of, 7;
  death of, 21, 63.

Petroff, 96, 119.

Petermann, Dr., 111, 116.

Petropavlovsk, founding of, 127.

Pissarjeff, 65, 83;
  quarrel with Bering, 84;
  sketch of, 85, 95;
  removal of, 103, 126.

Plauting, 93-96, 135.

Plenisner, 153.

Pontanus, J. J., 14.

Popoff, Cossack, on Chuckchee peninsula, 17, 66.

Preobrashensky, bay, 31.

Pribyloff Islands, 178.

Prince William's Sound, 145, 148.

Pronchisheff, 81, 92, 93, 96, 109.


Reclus, 67.

Remesoff, atlas of, 16.

Ruge, Prof., 117, 119.

Russian fleet, founding of, 9.


Saghalin, island, 54;
  charting of, 125.

Sarycheff, Admiral, at Kuriles, 120, 146, 148.

Sauer, M., 146;
  description of St. Elias, 147.

Saunders, Vice-Admiral, 11.

Savjaloff, 167.

Schaep, H. C., 54.

Schelagskii, cape, 110.

Schelting, Lieut., 119.

Scurvy, 182.

Schwatka, 21.

Sea Cow, 179: correct scientific name, 179;
  extermination of, 179;
  importance of, 180.

Sea Lion, 178.

Sea Lion Island, 175.

Sea Otter, 177.

Seljonyi, island, 123.

Semichi Islands, 167.

Semidi Islands, 159.

Senate, Russian, orders of, 64.

Serdze Kamen, cape, 30 _et seq._

Shafiroff, 85.

Shantar Islands, 65.

Shestakoff, 18, 56.

Shumagins, discovery of, 161;
  stay at, 162, 164.

Siberia, determinations of longitude in, 38;
  scientific exploration of, 68.

Sievers, Peter, 9.

Sikotan, island, 123.

Skeving, 9.

Skuratoff, 109.

Soimonoff, 73.

Sokoloff, K., 75;
  opinion of Spangberg, 84, 94;
  Bering's assistants, 95;
  opinion of Bering, 96, 100, 116;
  qualifications of, 137, 159;
  reproved by Bancroft, 189;

Spangberg. M., in first expedition, 21;
  at the Kut, 22;
  winter at the Yudoma, 24;
  sets sail, 26, 50;
  instructions to, 66, 77, 82;
  nativity of, 84;
  accusations against, 94, 96;
  at Okhotsk, 100;
  expedition to Japan, 102, 117;
  return to Bolsheretsk, 120;
  results of expedition, 125;
  return to Yakutsk, 126;
  at Kirinsk, 126;
  return from third expedition to Japan, 190.

Spangberg's Island, 123.

Staaten Eiland, 54, 117, 133.

St. Abraham Island, 168.

Stanovoi Mts., 84, 89.

St. Elias, island, 141 _et seq._

Stejneger, L., Dr., translator's preface;
  note on, 173, 178;
  note by, 174;
  description of Steller's Arch, 176;
  concerning sea-cow, 179, 180.

Steller, G. W., opinion of Bering's first expedition, 46, 57, 92;
  estimate of Bering, 97;
  at Okhotsk, 103;
  joins the Pacific expedition, 135;
  nativity and sketch of, 136;
  diary of, 137;
  on American soil, 141;
  description of St. Elias, 147, 150;
  ridicules Bering, 151;
  description of animal life, 176;
  honored by Stejneger, 176, note;
  care of the castaways, 181;
  account of Bering's death, 186.

Steller, Mount, 176, note.

Steller's Triumphal Arch, description of, 176, note;
  representation of, 177.

Sterlegoff, 80, 109.

St. Hermogenes, island, 152;
  discovery of, 156.

St. Johannes, island, 165.

St. Kresta Bay, 31;
  the Gabriel at, 31, 46.

St. Lawrence Island, 34, 41.

St. Marcus Island, 167.

St. Paul, ship, building of, 100, 102;
  crew of, 135;
  course of, 139.

St. Peter, building of, 100, 102;
  crew of, 135;
  journals of, 137;
  course of, 139;
  return voyage, 156 _et seq._;
  at Shumagins, 164;
  determinations of latitude by, 167;
  stranding of, 172.

Strahlenberg, 18;
  outline maps by, 20, 118.

St. Stephen, island, 158, 167.

St. Thaddeus, cape, 30.

Stuxberg, A., Dr., 111.

Suckling, cape, 146.


Tabbert (Strahlenberg), 55.

Taimyr, peninsula, 82, 93, 109;
  cartography of, 114, 115.

Taroko, islands, 123.

Texeïra, 55.

Three Sisters, islands, 124.

Tigil, 128.

Tobol, 79;
  launching of, 80.

Tobolsk, arrival at, 21.

Tolbukhin, Lieut., 102.

Tordenskjold, Peter, note on, 9.

Trane, Thure, 9.

Tumannoi Island, 158.

Tunguska River, 22.

Tuscarora, 139.


Udinsk, 62.

Ukamok, island, 158.

Urak, river, 23.

Ural Mts., 68.

Urup, island, 117.

Ustkutsk, 22.

Ust Maiskaya, 88.


Vancouver, 67, 144, 148.

Vancouver's Island, 158.

Van Dieman, 54.

Vangondie, R. de, 39.

Van Haven, 78.

Varkhoiansk, 102.

Vega expedition, 109, 113-115, 179.

Viligin, 18.

Vlaming, 112.

Volga, 80.

Von Baer, 36, 41, 48, 72, 98, 111, 115;
  concerning sea-cow, 180, 192.

Voyage of the Vega, 113-115, 179.

Vries, M. de, 54, 117, 124.


Walton, 96, 120, 121, 126.

Walvisch Bay, 123.

Waxel, Lieut., 96, 135, 137, 152;
  in command of the St. Peter, 161, 167, 169, 170.

Wilster, D., Admiral, 9.

Wingham Island, 146, 147.

Witsen, N., 15.

Wrangell, 110, 113.

Wrangell Island, 18.


Yablonoi, Mts., 16.

Yakutat Bay (Bering Bay), 146.

Yakutsk, 62;
  foundry at, 83.

Yakutsk, sloop, 81.

Yelagin, 127.

Yenisei, 22, 107.

Yevrinoff, 17, 119, 132.

Yudoma, river, 23.

Yudomskaya Krest, 23.

Yezo, 14, 117.



_Efter D'Anville's Atlas 1737_

_Axel E. Aamodt's lith. Etabl._

                                     _Reautograferet af W. Lynge._]




The dotted coast-lines are inserted according to the
astronomer De l'Isles Chart 1732.]




From Sketches by Bering, Chirikoff and Chitrof.

_Efter Zapiski Gidr. Depart. IX B._

_Axel E. Aamodt's lith. Etabl._

                                     _Reautograferet af W. Lynge._]




Discovered by Bering in 1741 and
called ST. ELIAS.

From Chitrof's Journal.

_Efter Zapiski Gidr. Depart. IX B._

_Axel E Aamodt's lith. Etabl._

                                     _Reautograferet af W. Lynge._]

    Transcriber's Notes:

    Simple spelling, grammar, and typographical errors were corrected.

    Punctuation normalized.

    Anachronistic and non-standard spellings retained as printed.

    Italics markup is enclosed in _underscores_.

    P. 31 changed longitude to latitude as 64° 41' latitude would be in
    the Bering Sea but not 64° 41' longitude.

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search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.