Voyage of the Ship “Diana” from Kronstadt to Kamchatka


This book covers the initial stages of the circumnavigation of the globe on the sloop Diana by the famed Russian explorer Vasilii Golovnin. Descended from an illustrious military family and educated at the Imperial Russian Naval College, Golovnin rose to become a vice admiral in the Russian navy and a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Diana left the naval port of Kronstadt (near Saint Petersburg) in 1807 under Golovnin’s command and sailed southward in the Atlantic Ocean, intending to round the Cape of Good Hope and proceed into the Indian Ocean and from there to the Pacific Ocean. The Napoleonic Wars were underway at this time and, owing to a shift in Russia’s alliances with Great Britain and France, Golovnin and the Diana were forced to endure a long British naval detention in Simon’s Town (present-day Cape Town), South Africa. Golovin made the best of the situation, using his time to record copious geographical, military, and economic observations about South Africa, just as he was to do while in Japanese captivity on Hokkaido a few years later. The second volume of this work reflects these careful notations, with over 100 pages of detailed analysis of the Cape of Good Hope region. In 1809, after a year, the crew cut the anchor cables on a dark night and the ship escaped to the open sea. The Diana then sailed on to continue its mission to Kamchatka and Alaska to survey the North Pacific and to supply Russian ports along the Asian and North American coasts. The book follows the itinerary of the Diana, with chapters on later parts of the voyage all the way to Kamchatka. There are several maps and illustrations at the end of the second volume, as well as a page of corrections for typographical errors in the original text. Golovnin later completed a second circumnavigation, on the frigate Kamchatka in 1817‒19, which he commanded and during which he helped to train three navigators who would go on to become eminent Russian explorers, Fyodor Litke, Ferdinand von Wrangell, and Fyodor Matyushkin.

Last updated: December 11, 2017