Charts of the Kurile Islands


Presented here are five charts of the Kurile Islands, created in 1811, which contain detailed information about important islands and island clusters within the chain. The charts were compiled by Kyril T. Khlebnikov (1784–1838), a long-time official of the Russian-American Company, for use as a cartographic and navigational resource for company needs. The charts were drawn on the famous Russian sloop Diana, which visited the Kurile Islands in 1811 under orders of the Imperial Russian Naval Ministry. The Diana’s mission was to explore and map the southern part of the island chain as well as other sites in the North Pacific. These charts focus on the island of Simushir Ostrov (labelled as Marikan, an earlier name, on international maps). They reference the presence of sea otters, the furs of which were the main business interest of the Russian-American Company. Locations on the island where Kurile natives pursued traditional activities, including the gathering of roots, are also highlighted. The presence of large volcanoes on this island, as throughout the entire Kurile chain, is apparent from the stark relief shown on the charts by hachures and shading. Latitude and longitude are provided, including longitudinal readings (from Greenwich, England) for several volcanic peaks. A scale at the bottom of the map indicates distance in geographical miles. A geographical mile represents a unit of length equal to one minute of arc on the Earth’s equator; thus 60 geographical miles are contained within one degree of longitude at the equator, with precise mathematical variations occurring by latitude to the poles.

Last updated: February 7, 2018