The Travels of Captain Billings across Chukotka from the Bering Strait to the Lower Kolyma Redoubt, and the Voyage of Captain Hall on the Ship Black Eagle in the North-Eastern Ocean in 1791. Includes a Glossary in Twelve Dialects of the Native People, Observations on Severe Weather at the Lower Kolyma Redoubt, and Instructions Given to Captain Billings by the State Admiralty Board


Late in her reign, in 1785, Empress Catherine the Great commissioned a Russian naval survey under the command of Captain Joseph Billings that was known as the Northeastern Geographical and Astronomical Expedition. Billings, an Englishman in the service of the Russian state, set out that year with two assistant captains, Gavriil Sarychev and Robert Hall (Roman Gall in Russian usage). This volume chronicles Billings’s explorations in 1791 on the ship Glory of Russia, accompanied by Sarychev, along the Chukotka Peninsula from the Bering Strait westward to the Lower Kolyma River redoubt in the Northeast Passage above Siberia. It also records Captain Hall’s voyages in the North Pacific on the ship Black Eagle, through Kamchatka, the Kurile Islands, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. In addition to text based on the relevant ship journals, the book contains elaborate engravings of the regions surveyed in an accompanying series of maps. The Billings Expedition produced some of the earliest and most thorough Russian cartography from both sides of the Bering Strait region and the nearby coastlines along the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea. The ship crews also made extensive zoological, botanical, and ethnographic observations, and were instructed by the Russian Admiralty to name previously unnamed lands and islands. This extensive expedition was also well known for the fact that Catherine the Great had given Billings the related task of investigating the fur-trading operations of Grigorii Ivanovich Shelikhov on Kodiak Island and elsewhere in Alaska. Shelikhov long had been a controversial figure. Tales abounded even in the imperial Russian capital of Saint Petersburg about his abuse of native laborers and his flouting of Russian laws in Alaska. Several parts of this book touch upon the review by Billings and his assistants of local native labor conditions and the maintenance of Russian legal standards in Alaska. Although Shelikhov’s company survived and ultimately prospered as the Russian-American Company, the Russian government insisted on changes regarding the treatment of the native populations in Alaska and by 1794 had dispatched a cohort of Russian Orthodox monks to Kodiak in an attempt to ameliorate the situation.

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Morskoi̐tip, St. Petersburg


Title in Original Language

Путешествiе капитана Биллингса Чрезъ Чукотскую землю отъ Берингова пролива до Нижнеколымскаго острога, и плаванiе Капитана Галла На суднѣ Чёрномъ Орлѣ по Сѣверовосточному Океану в 1791 году; Съ приложенiемъ Словаря двенадцати нарѣчiй дикихъ народовъ, наблюденiя надъ стужею въ Верхнеколымскомъ острогѣ, и наставленiя даннаго Капитану Биллингсу изъ Государственной Адмиралтействъ-Коллегiи

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191 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 centimeters

Last updated: August 17, 2016