Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia
Otto Von Kotzebue's First Voyage
Otto Von Kotzebue's First Voyage
1815 to 1818
The second Russian expedition into the Pacific for scientific exploration was sponsored by Count Romanzoff, then Chancellor of Russia. The ship, scientific instruments, equipment, and money for all expenses were provided solely by Romanzoff, who thereby proved to be one of Russia's greatest patrons of science. The ship Rurick, 180 tons with a crew of 20, was placed under the command of Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue, who had accompanied Krusenstern as a cadet on the Nadeshda. Among the personnel were Chamisso, the naturalist, and Choris, the artist, each of whom contributed interesting and valuable information concerning the places visited. Eschscholtz, the surgeon, made zoological collections.
The Rurick sailed from Kronstadt on July 30, 1815, for the Pacific via Cape Horn. She crossed the meridian of Cape Horn on January 22, 1816, in latitude 57° 33′ S. After visiting the Chilean coast, Kotzebue reached Easter Island on March 29. He sailed west through the Tuamotu Archipelago and, from April 16 to April 24, saw the following islands, some of which he named: Doubtful, so named because he thought it might be the Dog Island (Pukapuka) of Le Maire and Schouten; Romanzoff (Tikei); Spiridoff; the Palliser Islands of Cook; Ruricks chain (Arutua); Deans Island on Arrowsmith's chart; and Krusenstern (Tikahau). He sailed over the position given by Roggeveen for the Bauman Islands (Eastern Samoa) without finding them. He reached Penrhyn (Tongareva) on May 1 and described the natives who came out in canoes.
Kotzebue sailed out of Polynesia and discovered the Radak and Ralik chains of the Marshall Islands in Micronesia. The Rurick then turned west-northwest for Kamchatka and anchored in the Harbor of St. Peter and St. Paul on June 18. Kotzebue explored the North American coast, and a sound north of Bering Strait was named Kotzebue Sound. After exploring various sounds and islands, he, sailed south to California in September and then on to the Hawaiian Islands.page 75
The mountain of Mouna Roa (Mauna Loa) on Hawaii was sighted 50 miles away on November 21. The Rurick anchored in Karakakooa (Kealakekua) Bay and Kotzebue visited King Tamaahmaah (Kamehameha). The king's dress was described as consisting of a white shirt, blue pantaloons, red waistcoast, and a colored neckcloth. Choris painted Kamehameha in this costume and a number of copies have aroused controversy as to which is the original. The Rurick sailed to Oahu and anchored in Hana-ruru (Honolulu) Harbor, where she provisioned. In his conversations with Kamehameha, Kotzebue definitely stated that the Russian Government had nothing to do with the attempt to establish Russian settlements in the islands.
Kotzebue sailed from Honolulu on December 14 and revisited the Marshall Islands before sailing north to resume his exploration of the northwest coast of America. He spent months in the Aleutian Islands before he again turned south to the Hawaiian Islands. He arrived at Honolulu on October 1, 1817, and was visited by Kareimoku (Kalaimoku), the Governor of Oahu, to whom he gave the portrait of Kamehameha. He learned that Scheffer had left the islands.
After a fortnight, he sailed on his voyage home, by way of the Marshalls, Guam, Manila, and the Cape of Good Hope. He was at Manila in January 1818 and anchored at Table Bay on March 30. He was visited by Captain Freycinet of the Uranie who was on his way to the Pacific on his voyage round the world. Kotzebue called at Plymouth and, on August 3, 1818, anchored his ship opposite the palace of his patron, Count Romanzoff, after a voyage of three years and five days.