Abridged Travel Notes of the Captain-Lieutenant of the First Rank Golovnin from his Voyage on the Sloop “Diana” for Observation of the Kurile Islands in 1811


This book covers part 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. 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. After visiting Novo-Arkhangel’sk (present-day Sitka) in Russian America (Alaska), Golovnin returned to the western side of the Pacific Ocean to map and survey the southern Kurile Islands in 1811. This volume covers the Kurile Islands portion of his journey and details his careful and thorough explorations of these volcanic islands. Successive chapters present his observations on each island visited, which are followed by a series of maps of the Kurile Islands. Corresponding tables note the latitude and longitude of the islands surveyed, as well as the time of the ship’s visit. Golovnin was famously arrested by the Japanese on Kunashir Island while stopping there, and as a foreigner was charged with illegally entering Japan. This action reflected the thoroughly isolationist state policy that Japan had followed for centuries, when the government of Japan banned both foreign visits to Japan as well as foreign trips by its own people. Golovnin thus was forced to endure two years in captivity on the island of Hokkaido. He spent his time learning about the Japanese language and culture and later became famous for a volume he published about his internment. Golovnin’s book provided an unusual window on Japan for Russians who previously knew nothing about their Asian neighbor. 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, Fedor Litke, Baron Ferdinand  Wrangel, and Fyodor Matyushkin.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

St. Petersburg


Title in Original Language

Сокращённые записки флота капита-лейтенанта первого ранга Головнина о плавании его на шлюпе "Диана" для описи Курильских островов в 1811 году

Type of Item

Physical Description

146 pages : maps

Last updated: December 11, 2017