Monday, March 06, 2006

Sailing in the East of Siberia

A product of the Russian Royal Navy, Gavriil Sarychev (1763-1831) joined a veteran of the Captain Cook voyages, Joseph Billings, in an 8 year geographical and ethnological expedition to the coasts of Siberia and Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.

Their trip was supported by Catherine the Great who instructed them "to bring to perfection the knowledge acquired under her glorious reign." Her instructions, issued through the Russian Academy of Sciences, also asked that they detail ' "all the remarkable places" and "the natural curiosities" they encountered both on land and at sea. They were also to interview, observe, and describe all the peoples they met.'

Although the mission was something of a financial disappointment, there was an emphasis placed on gaining cooperation of native groups in all facets of their investigations. Consequently for instance, the maps (still considered to be of high quality) included local names, many of which persist. Sarychev went on to become an Admiral, an Honorary member of the Science Academy, Hygrographer-General and ultimately head of the Naval Ministry.

1 comment :

Tillerman said...

Thank you for bringing to our attention a voyage of discovery not well known in the West.

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