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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Russian Voyagers, 1803 to 1826

Russian Voyagers, 1803 to 1826

Von Krusenstern

1803 to 1086

Captain Adam Johann von Krusenstern was appointed to the command of the first Russian round-the-world expedition. The purchase of two ships and the equipment with stores and merchandise for the northwest coast were provided by the Russian American Company. The command of the ships and their crews from navy personnel was the share of the Russian Government. Krusenstern appointed Captain Urey Lisiansky of the Imperial Navy, who had served with him in the British Navy, as second-in-command. He sent Lisiansky and an expert on ship building to Hamburg to buy two ships, but nothing suitable being available, the two ships were bought in London for 17,000 pounds. An additional sum of 5,000 pounds was spent on repairs. One ship, 450 tons and three years old, was named the Nadeshda (Hope); the other, 370 tons and 15 months old, was named the Neva.

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Among those sailing were Dr. Langsdorff and the two sons of Councilor Kotzebue, the Russian writer. Otto von Kotzebue, who served as a cadet, afterwards commanded another Russian expedition. On board the Nadeshda, accommodation was also found for M. Resanov, visiting ambassador to Japan. He carried a letter and presents from the Emperor of Russia to the Emperor of Japan, and his destination shaped the plan of the expedition. The two ships were to separate at the Sandwich Islands, the Nadeshda to take the Ambassador and his suite to Nagasaki in Japan and then to proceed to Kamchatka, the Neva under Lisiansky to sail to the northwest coast of America and deliver goods to the Russian American Company and procure acargo of furs. The ships were to rendezvous the following summer at Canton, where the furs were to be sold and oriental goods obtained.

The ships sailed from Kronstadt on July 19, 1803.4 They doubled Cape Horn on March 3, 1804 and sailed for Nukuhiva in the Marquesas, intending to call at Easter Island if conditions were favorable. The Nadeshda abandoned the Easter Island call, and sighted Hoods Island (Fatuhuku) on May 6. She anchored at Port Anna Maria (Taiohae Bay) in Nukuhiva, and the Neva arrived on May 11. Good descriptions were recorded on the geography of the Washington group and the culture of the Marquesas. The ships left on May 18 and sighted Owaihi (Hawaii) on June 7. After a few days, the Nadeshda sailed to deliver the Ambassador to Japan, but the Neva remained for a time. The rest of the voyage of the Nadeshda was not concerned with Polynesia, but it will be related briefly to complete the record. She sailed first for Awatscha Bay in Kamchatka and anchored in the port of St. Peter and St. Paul on July 15 where some changes were made in the Ambassador's suite. She sailed for Japan on August 30 and, after encountering violent gales, anchored at the entrance to Nagasaki Bay on October 5.

The Ambassador was subjected to various annoyances and delays by the mistrustful Japanese. He was not allowed a house on shore until December 17. Meanwhile a courier had been sent to Jeddo (Tokyo) to inform the Emperor of the Ambassador's arrival. An illustration of the Japanese attitude toward foreign intervention is provided by the following incident. A Japanese in the Ambassador's house cut his throat with a razor. Dr. Langsdorff, who was in the house, attempted to staunch the bleeding but was prevented by the Japanese guard, as the Governor had not been informed. An official was sent for, and the patient was allowed to bleed until the official arrived and sent for a Japanese doctor. Fortunately, the wound was not deep. A plenipotentiary did not arrive from Tokyo until March 30, 1805, and two audiences were arranged with him in April. At the second meeting the following Japanese decisions were made known. The presents and letter from the Emperor of Russia page 71were refused on the ground that their acceptance would involve the sending of a Japanese Ambassador to St. Petersburg with presents for the Emperor of Russia, which would break the law that no Japanese must leave Japan. No Russian ship was to come again to Japan, and any Japanese wrecked in Russia were to be turned over to the Dutch for transport back to Japan. The Russian party were forbidden to give presents or purchase anything in Japan, and they were not to visit or receive visits from the Dutch factor at Nagasaki.

On the other hand, the ship's repairs and provisions were to be charged to the Imperial account; and the Emperor sent as a present, 2,000 sacks of salt each weighing 30 pounds, 100 sacks of rice each weighing 150 pounds, and 2,000 pieces of "silk wadding." The salt and rice were for the crew and the silk wadding for the officers. On April 18, the Nadeshda, with the Ambassador and his suite and the rejected presents, sailed from Nagasaki.

Krusenstern explored the coast and islands north of Japan and made observations on the Ainu at Jesso (Yezo, or Hokkaido) and Aniva Bay, Karafuto. He arrived at St. Peter and St. Paul in June where the Ambassador and Dr. Langsdorff, the naturalist, left the Nadeshda to seek some earlier transport back to Russia. Through July and August further explorations were made, and the ship returned to St. Peter and St. Paul on August 29. The monument to Captain Clerke of Cook's third expedition was renewed, the ship was repaired and provisioned, and Krusenstern sailed in October for Macao. He arrived at Macao on November 20 and waited for the Neva, which arrived with a rich cargo of furs on December 3. After much trouble with Chinese officials and merchants, the cargo of the Neva was sold for 178,000 piastres. The Nadeshda had also collected a small quantity of furs, and these were sold for an additional 12,000 piastres. Of their total sum, 100,000 piastres were accepted in specie and 90,000 in tea. When most of the cargo was on board the two ships, the Chinese officials prohibited them from sailing until orders were received from Pekin. However, with the able assistance of Mr. Drummond, the president of the British East India Company, the restrictions were removed without awaiting permission from Pekin, and the ships sailed for home on February 9, 1806. They sailed round the Cape of Good Hope, and the Nadeshda, which had separated from the Neva, arrived at St. Helena on May 3. A rendezvous at St. Helena had been arranged, but Lisiansky ignored it, to Krusenstern's annoyance. Krusenstern learned that war had been declared between France and Russia, so he sailed round the north of Scotland to avoid meeting French warships. He finally arrived at Kronstadt on August 19, 1806, having circumnavigated the globe in three years and twelve days. Lisiansky, however, by ignoring the arrangement to call in at St. Helena landed at Kronstadt fourteen days before his commander.

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Urey Lisiansky

1803 to 1806

As Captain Urey Lisiansky of the Neva had been given a different assignment than that of Krusenstern, his narrative contains some different episodes of interest. After rounding Cape Horn, he parted from the Nadeshda and, finding the winds favorable, called at Easter Island, which he sighted on April 16, 1804. Some observations were made concerning the people. He also recorded useful information concerning the Marquesans. At the Sandwich Islands, he stayed longer than Krusenstern and visited Caracacoa (Kealakekua) Bay in Hawaii and Weymea (Waimea) Bay in Otooway (Kauai). He left the Sandwich Islands on June 20 and reached Kodiak Island off the northwest coast on July 8. He spent time at Kodiak and Sitka Sound in making observations and trading for furs, of which he procured a good cargo. He sailed south from Sitka on September 1, 1805, to make the rendezvous with Krusenstern at Macao. While passing to the west of the Sandwich Islands on the night of October 15, the Neva grounded on a coral reef. By throwing the guns overboard, the ship was floated off into deep water. In the morning, a small, low island was observed close at hand, and a sudden squall drove the Neva onto another part of the reef. This time anchors and cables were discarded and the ship was floated off. Fortunately, the weather was calm and Lisiansky landed on the island. He saw redwood logs, which must have drifted from California, and a small calabash with a round hole cut in it. The island, though of no economic value, was important because of its danger to navigation if not properly charted. This new discovery, which was named Lisiansky Island, is one of a number of islets which run northwest from the Hawaiian Islands.

Lisiansky did not call at St. Helena on his return journey, because he had ample provisions and water and his crewmen were in good health. He called at Portsmouth on June 28, and anchored at Kronstadt on August 4, 1806. He received a great ovation from the Russians, and honors and presents were poured upon him and his officers and crew. The Neva was a faster sailer than the Nadeshda, and one cannot help feeling that Lisiansky deliberately avoided St. Helena so as to be the first home. However, Krusenstern planned and obtained the support for the project and to him is due the credit of Russia's first round-the-globe voyage.


1806 to 1809

Lisiansky called the Neva the best ship he had ever sailed in. She stayed only a few weeks at Kronstadt for overhauling after Lisiansky's return, then was placed under the command of Lieutenant Hagenmeister for another voyage to Sitka. It is assumed that she left Kronstadt in 1806 on her second voyage, the same year she was brought back by Lisiansky. She arrived at Sitka in September 1807.

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Baranov, the manager of the Russian American Company, had been faced with the very serious problem of providing food for his colony, which at times had been on the point of starvation. There were two possibilities for relieving the situation. One was to obtain food from California with his own ships, the other was to establish some regular communication with the Hawaiian Islands. Baranov instructed Hagenmeister in 1808 to sail the Neva to Hawaii to establish a Russian settlement in the islands and, on the way, to search for any islands between Japan and Hawaii.

When the Neva arrived in Honolulu on January 27, 1809, King Kamehameha went out in a double canoe to greet the ship. He was given a handsome scarlet cloak, edged and ornamented with ermine, as a present from the governor of the Aleutian Islands. Hagenmeister then visited Kauai, where he found that King Kaumualii approved of the Russians settling in Kauai and hoped they would help defend him against King Kamehameha. After a few months, Hagenmeister returned to Alaska in the Neva and presented Baranov with an adverse report on the advisability of a Russian settlement in the Hawaiian Islands.

Mikhail Lazarev

1813 to 1815

Mikhail Lazarev was appointed to the command of the Suvorov, a ship owned by the Russian government, and instructed to sail to the Russian settlement in Alaska. Dr. Yegor Scheffer, a German graduate in medicine of Gottingen, joined the expedition as ship's surgeon. The Suvorov sailed, presumably from Kronstadt, in October 1813. No details are available as to the course pursued in entering the Pacific, but Lazarev evidently turned north to the west of the meridian of Tahiti. He discovered an uninhabited atoll, which he named Suvorov after his ship. The name is often incorrectly spelled Suvarov and Suwarrow. The island is in the northern Cook group in latitude 13° 15′ S. and longitude 163° 05′ W. Lazarev stayed in Alaska during the winter of 1814 and the spring of 1815. He did not get on well with his doctor, and Scheffer left the ship in Sitka. Baranov who had intended to send Lazarev in the Suvorov to establish a settlement in the Hawaiian Islands, also disagreed with Lazarev and gave up the idea. Baranov was drawn toward Scheffer through their common dislike of Lazarev. It may be assumed that Lazarev returned to Russia, for we find him later joining Bellingshausen in his expedition to the Antarctic.

It is necessary here to make a digression to maintain the sequence of events. On January 31, 1815, one of the Russian American Company's ships, the Bering, and its valuable cargo of furs from Alaska was thrown up onto the beach at Waimea Bay, Kauai. The cargo was rescued with the reluctant help of King Kaumualii's subjects, but Captain Bennett had to leave it behind. page 74When the news reached Baranov, he had to send someone to rescue the cargo. At this point Dr. Scheffer reenters the story. He convinced Baranov that he was the right man to send to Hawaii both to salvage the cargo and to establish a settlement. Schefler left Sitka on the company's ship Isabella on October 17, 1815, and arrived shortly after in Hawaii. He bought land on Oahu and Kauai, induced King Kaumualii to cede the island of Kauai to Russia, and erected two forts on Kauai. However, the Russian government rejected the proposal to annex the Hawaiian Islands, Baranov was alarmed at the expenses involved in Scheffer's activities, and Kamehameha caused Scheffer to beat a somewhat ignominious retreat to Russia.

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.

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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.

Vassili Golovnin

1817 to 1819

As a result of various rumors concerning the maladministrations, abuses, and cruelty of the officials of the Russian American Company in Alaska, the Russian Government decided in 1816 to send Captain Vassili Mikhailovitch Golovnin to investigate the matter. Golovnin had previously conducted surveys of the coast of Kamchatka, Alaska, and the Kurile Islands in 1807 to 1811 on the ship Diana. In July 1811 he had been arrested by the Japanese on Kunashiri Jima, the most southern of the Kuriles; and after he and his Russian companions had suffered imprisonment for two years, he had returned to St. Petersburg in 1814.

A sloop named the Kamchatka, built for the expedition to Alaska, had a cargo capacity of 900 tons for military and other supplies to be delivered to Kamchatka and ports on the Sea of Okhotsk. Golovnin was also to make surveys in the north Pacific and Bering Strait wherever they had not been made by Kotzebue in the Rurick. Golovnin selected a crew of 130, and among those who sailed with him were Litke and Von Wrangel who were destined in later page 76 Hawaiian Sailing Canoes off Niihau, Drawn by John Webber, Artist With Cook on his Third Voyage. page 77 years to continue Russian exploration. The Russian artist Tikhanov was also a member of the party. He painted a portrait of Kamehameha; but it was lost, which is a pity, for it would have added variety to that often copied Choris portrait.

The Kamchatka left Kronstadt on August 26, 1817, and sailed via Cape Horn to Kamchatka. Golovnin discharged his obligations by visiting the various Russian posts on the Asiatic and American sides and various islands in the Bering Sea and in the Aleutian chain. Having acquired information regarding the company, he sailed for the Hawaiian Islands.

He arrived at the island of Hawaii on October 18, 1818, and visited Kealakekua Bay and Kailua. He was visited by various chiefs and recorded much interesting information about the Hawaiians. Golovnin met Kamehameha at Kailua, where the king's sister had just died. Honolulu was visited, and the ship also anchored at Waimea Bay in Kauai. Golovnin found that Americans had influenced Kamehameha's mind against Russian settlement, but Scheffer had left the islands and the situation had calmed down. Golovnin was sincere in dissociating Scheffer's activities from the Russian government, and in his own writings, he refers to Scheffer as a foreigner.

From Kauai, Golovnin sailed west, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and anchored at Kronstadt on September 6, 1819.

Thaddus Bellingshausen

1819 to 1821

Russia, having done so much in the Arctic, turned her attention to the Antarctic and organized an expedition which was placed under the command of Admiral Thaddeus Bellingshausen. Two sloops, the Vostok and the Mirni, were equipped, and Mikhail Lazarev, who had previously commanded the Suvorov, was appointed to command the Mirni.

The two ships sailed from Kronstadt on July 4,5 1819. After touching at Brazil, they sailed south into the Antarctic, where they stopped at the south Georgia and south Sandwich groups. After three months in the Antarctic, they sailed for Port Jackson, Australia, where they arrived on March 30, 1820. From there, they sailed to New Zealand, where Bellingshausen was impressed with the wood carvings of the Maoris.

Bellingshausen sailed north for Polynesia, encountering Oparo (Rapa) and Bow Island (Hao), where he stayed awhile. From Hao, he sailed west through the Tuamotu Archipelago. On July 8, 1820, he discovered a new atoll, which he named Moller Island (Amanu). Between Amanu and Tahiti, from July 8 to July 18, Bellingshausen encountered no less than ten more Tuamotuan atolls and carefully checked their latitudes and longitudes. These he named as follows: Moller (Amanu), Arakcheev (Fangatau or Angatau), Volonsky page 78(Takume), Barclay de Tolley (Raroia), Nigeri (Nihiru), Osten-Saken or Saken (Katiu), Tchitchagoff or Chichagov (Tahanea), Miloradovich (Faaite), Wittgenstein (Fakarava), Greig (Niau), and Lazarev (Matahiva). He called at Meetia and Tahiti, where he met Pomare II and stayed some days.

Continuing west, Bellingshausen discovered another island on July 30 which he named Lazarev (Matahiva), after his second-in-command. On August 3, he discovered an uninhabited atoll which he named Vostok, after his ship. On August 8, he discovered Rakahanga in the northern Cook group and named it Grand Duke Alexander Island. The inhabitants came out in canoes and challenged him to fight by throwing stones and spears at the ship. Still continuing west, Bellingshausen missed Samoa and entered the Fiji Islands, where he encountered the three islands of Mikhaylov, Simonov, and Ono. Here he met "King Fio," gave presents, received food supplies, and bartered for various native articles. The ships then sailed for Sydney, where they arrived in October 1820.

On October 31, 1820, the ships sailed from Sydney for the Antarctic, and they reached Macquarie Island on November 16. On January 10, 1821, a high island was discovered in latitude 68° 57′ S. and named Peter I Island. On January 17 another island was discovered and named Alexander I Land, which later explorations showed to be a large, high island. Bellingshausen's hope that he had discovered the land mass of Antartica was dispelled by the appearance of the small American fur-trader, Hope, under the command of Nathaniel Palmer, who had discovered the land earlier. Out of courtesy, Bellingshausen named the coast Palmer Land. The expedition returned via Rio de Janeiro and reached Kronstadt in August 1821.

Von Kotzebue's Second Voyage

1823 to 1826

Otto von Kotzebue, now a Post Captain in the Imperial Navy, wasgiven command of the Predpriatie (Enterprise) in March 1823 to make a second voyage for scientific purposes, convey cargo to Kamchatka, and sail to the northwest American coast to protect the Russian American Company from the smuggling of foreign traders. His crew consisted of 115 men, in addition to twenty-three mates and officers and six professional men.

Kotzebe sailed from Kronstadt on July 28, 1823, and rounded Cape Horn on December 23. He visited the Chilean coast and then sailed west through the Tuamotu Archipelago on his way to Tahiti. On March 2, 1824, he found an island which he named Predpriatie, after his ship. Sailing west, he saw Arakcheev and Volonsky Islands, discovered previously by Bellingshausen, and Romanzoff, discovered by himself in 1816. He was in doubt about the island he had named Spiridoff on his first voyage, but the winds prevented him from more accurate checking. He saw an island which he thought was the Carlshof page 79of Roggeveen, examined the Pallisers discovered by Cook, and passed Greig Island of Bellingshausen.

The Predpriatie anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on March 14. Kotzebue met various members of the London Missionary Society, including Tyerman and Bennet, and he sailed on March 24. He sighted an island to the north which he named Guagein and Ulietea (Raiatea) to the northwest. He saw Maurura (Maurua or Maupiti) and, on March 26, discovered a group of low coral islands (Motu-one), which he named Bellingshausen after his fellow explorer.

Continuing west, he encountered on April 2, a small uninhabited island (Rose Atoll), which he named Kordinkoff. He learned later that it had been discovered by Freycinet in 1819. He saw the Manua group of Eastern Samoa which he referred to as Opoun (Tau), Lione (Olosenga), and Fanfoue (Ofu). At Maouna (Tutuila), he sailed round to Massacre Bay (Leone) where he traded for coconuts but found the natives impudent. He passed on to Ojalava (Savaii) and Pola (Upolu), where he traded for pigs and fruit and was offered the purchase of tame pigeons and parrots. (The identification of Kotzebue's names for the Samoan names is rendered easy by the map published with his journal.) From the Samoan islands, Kotzebue sailed northwest and, in May, reached the Radak chain in the Marshall Islands which he had discovered on his first voyage. From there he sailed to Kamchatka.

After spending some months at Kamchatka, the Aleutians, and Sitka, Kotzebue arrived in the Hawaiian Islands on December 12, 1824. He visited old acquaintances and received a friendly welcome. At Honolulu, he presented Kalaimoku with a copper plate engraving of the likeness of Kamehameha which had been painted by Choris. He left Honolulu for the north on January 31, 1825.

From March to August 1825, Kotzebue remained at New Archangel in Sitka, carrying out instructions with regard to the Russian American Company. In August he sailed south for Honolulu, where he arrived on September 13. After a stay of only six days, he sailed west, passing through the Marshalls and Marianas to Manila. He left Manila on January 10, 1826, and sailing via the Cape of Good Hope, anchored in the roads off Kronstadt on July 10, 1826, after an absence of a few days under three years.

4 Krusenstern gives August 7; probably based on the Russian Calendar.

5 Russian calendar; 12 days must be added for English calendar.