Chronological History of All Voyages to the Northern Polar Regions, with an Additional Overview of the Physical Characteristics of this Area


This book from 1821 is an early history of circumpolar navigation, with an overview of the lands and waterways of the Arctic. The author, Vasilii Berkh, was a Russian naval historian and geographer who participated in the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe on the ship Neva, under Captain Yurii Lisianskii, in 1803–6. The book surveys prior voyages by European and Russian explorers and lists sources in French, English, and German as well as Russian documenting the relevant expeditions. The aim of the volume was to compile the existing geographical knowledge about the polar region gained from previous voyages undertaken for both scientific and commercial purposes. One of the author’s objectives was to determine the shortest maritime routes from European Russia to India based on a review of the existing literature. Berkh examines three different routes: the northeast, around the shores of Asia; the northwest, across the Hudson or Baffin Bays; and a third route from the Atlantic Ocean through the North Pole and Bering Strait. A number of plates are included at the end of the volume, presenting images of polar animals such as musk ox, beluga whales, bowhead whales, narwhals and polar bears, along with a vivid depiction of a walrus hunt. These are followed by a plate illustrating native artwork, four pages showing the different geometric shapes of polar snowflakes and an illustration of an Eskimo spear point. At the end of the book is a large Mercator projection map of the Arctic regions on two foldouts, which showed for the first time on a single canvas the southern coast of Greenland, the northern coasts of Europe and Russia, and the northern coast of Alaska.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

General staff of Alexander I of Russia, St. Petersburg


Title in Original Language

Хронологическая исторiя всѣхъ путешествiй въ сѣверныя полярныя страны, съ присовокупленiемъ обозрѣнiя физическихъ свойствъ того края

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes in 1 : illustrations, maps ; 22 centimeters

Last updated: June 9, 2017