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Account of the Russian Officer (Waxel).


The first two, we must admit, agree well enough with the second and third routes mentioned in the Paris memoir. They are expressed in these


"1. 'If one advances to the most northern extremity of Asia, and at the same time the most eastern point reached by Captain Bering (wrong supposition, as I have already remarked), one cannot fail to reach America, no matter what route one takes between the northeast and southeast, at a distance of not more than 600 leagues (great error in estimating the distance of the opposite lands of Asia and America, since they are only separated in the north by a narrow strait which widens as it goes south). "2. Without going so far, it would perhaps be easier to start from the eastern coast of Kamshatka, sail directly east and reconnoitre the neighboring land, of which M. Bering discovered indications on his first Voyage.'

"In regard to the third route, M. de l'Isle conjectures as follows:

"3. Perhaps the countries seen by Don Juan de Gama might be found more speedily and with more certitude by seeking them to the southeast of Kamshatka;' the outcome of which project showed him his mistake, which is apparently the reason that induced him to change it to that of the route by Japan and Yeco.

Nothing is so imperfect in detail, and withal so dry, as the recital of M. Bering's voyage with which M. de l'Isle regales us. He makes him start in 1741 to look to the east of Kamshatka for the land which he had seen indications of in his first voyage. He did not go very far,' he says, 'for, being assailed by a violent storm during thick weather, he could not remain at sea, and brought up on a desert island in latitude 54°, only a short distance from the Port of Avatcha from whence he had sailed.'

"M. Bering, then, did nothing but fail, and he did so soon after leaving port. I must therefore supplement the meagreness of M. de l'Isle's relation by giving an account of the voyage of M. Bering and the other officers, chiefs of these expeditions, which will be so much the more easy as I took part in them and as I can, besides, refer to the charts and journals of each vessel as proofs of my correctness.

"The Captain Commanding Bering and Captains Spangenberg and Tschirikow, with several other naval officers, left St. Petersburg in the spring of 1733. They waited at Yakouzk and Ochozk until the vessels being built at this latter place for their expedition were completed, and when all was ready for the departure of M. de Spangenberg he was dispatched first, according to the orders of the Senate. He started, then, from Ochozk in the month of June, 1738, having three vessels under his command, to which he added a large covered row-boat of 24 oars, which he caused to be constructed at Bolscherezkoi Ostrog in Kamshatka, where he wintered. This boat was to be used to go into the narrow straits between the islands that they might find and where the ships could not go. In the summer of 1739 he went to Japan, the long chain of islands situated between Japan and Kamshatka serving to guide him. He landed at two different places in Japan and was received with great civility by the people of the country; but he never went to Matsmai, the principal place

on the island of Yeco, as M. de l'Isle erroneously states. He thought he had sufficiently complied with his instructions without doing so, and returning to Ochozk, passed the winter at Yakouzk. As soon as a detailed account of this voyage was seen in St. Petersburg they concluded by the route which M. Spangenberg had followed that he must have passed near the coast of Corea, and he was therefore ordered to make a second voyage in order to confirm the first. He started in 1741 and 1742, but his ship, built hastily and of unseasoned wood, leaked and obliged him to return. “MM. Bering and Tschirikow left Ochozk the 4th of September, 1740. They both had the same destination; the second was to follow the track of the first. They only took different vessels so as to be able to assist each other more efficaciously in case of any accident. Without entering the Rolschaia-Reka river, as is customary in coming from Ochozk, they immediately rounded the southern point of Kamshatka and anchored at Avatscha, or port of St. Peter and St. Paul, as they called it. While wintering in these places, they made all their preparations for commencing in spring their principal voyage, which was to have America as its object. Owing, however, to the uncertainty as to the route which they were to follow, M. Bering assembled a naval council on the 4th of May, 1741, and it was resolved to endeavor first to discover the land of Don Juan de Gama, a fatal resolution which was the cause of all of our disasters. The 4th June we put to sea. M. Bering had on his vessel, sent by the Academy, an adjutant, M. Steller, physician by profession, but above all well versed in all that pertained to natural history. M. de la Croyere was with M. Tschirikow. Although M. Bering and M. Tschirikow were not to separate, according to their instructions, they could not avoid it, for eight days after sailing they were separated by storms and fogs. The search for the pretended land of Gama caused them to direct their course southeast; they continued to sail in that direction as far as the 46th degree without, however, finding the slightest vestige of it. They then changed their course to the northeast and both reached the coast of America, but in different places and without knowing of the whereabouts of the other. M. Bering and we who accompanied him saw land for the first time after being six weeks at sea. We then calculated that we were about five hundred Dutch leagues from Avatscha. We provided ourselves with fresh water. We saw indications of inhabitants, but could perceive no one. After being at anchor three days, M. Bering consulted with his officers, and it was resolved to return. The 21st July we weighed anchor before sunrise. There was nothing to do but to follow the coast, which stretched westward; but navigation was seriously embarrassed by frequent islands, and when we tried to put to sea we were met by storms and contrary winds, which caused us new delays every day. In order to procure fresh water, we returned towards the coast, from which we had kept as far as possible. Soon it was in sight, sceming about ten miles distant. We anchored between the islands, and the one where we landed was Schoumagin-Ostrow. The water was good, but although taken from a lake, there was, nevertheless, some sea water in it brought by the tide, which sometimes inundated the island. Afterwards

Account of the Russian Officer (Waxel).


we felt disastrous effects from its use, in sickness and the loss of several of our men, who died. We tried in vain during three or four days to discover some natives of the country, whose fires we could see at night on the coast. The 4th of September these savages finally came, of themselves, in little canoes, and, having announced their arrival to us by a loud cry, they presented us with their calumets, in sign of peace. These calumets were sticks with the wings of falcons attached to the end. We understood from their gestures that they were inviting us to come on land in order to furnish us with provisions and fresh water. We wished to profit by the opportunity, and some of us ventured to follow them; but soon, however, misunderstandings arose and all communication was broken off.

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'The 6th of September, after having at first had a tolerably good wind for the voyage, we began to find that as we advanced the obstacles were increasing, nothing but coasts and islands on every side. M. Bering wished to get away from them by sailing more southwards, and, in truth, for several days the sea appeared much more free. Our joy, however, was of short duration. The 24th of September, in latitude 54 degrees, we came upon coasts bordered with a number of islands, and at the same time a violent tempest arose, which lasted seventeen days and sent us back a distance of eighty miles. An old pilot acknowledged that during the fifty years that he had followed the sea he had never seen such a storm. We should then stop calling this ocean "Pacific.” This name may, perhaps, be suitable to it in the tropics, but certainly is wrongly given to it here. The weather became calin again, but our provisions were by this time considerably diminished and there was only about a third of our crew who remained well and serviceable after all the hardships to which they had been exposed. There was still more than half of our way to make, counting from the extreme point of our voyage in the East to Avatscha. In view of these facts, many of us were of opinion that it would be better to winter somewhere in America, rather than run the risk of encountering new dangers worse, perhaps, than those we had just escaped; and these counsels came near prevailing over those who were of opinion that we should make a supreme effort to reach Avatscha, and that it would be time to think of seeking another refuge when we had lost all hope of succeeding in so doing. The month of October, however, was passed as fruitlessly as the preceding ones. The 30th of that month we came upon two islands, which seemed to us to bear some resemblance to the first two of those islands which stretch from the southern extremity of Kamshatka to Japan. Thereupon we directed our course northwards, and the 4th November, having observed the latitude, we found that we were under the 56th parallel. The 5th, however, finished our voyage. Wishing to sail to the west, we struck upon a desert island, where we had a good prospect of finishing our lives. Our vessel went to pieces upon one of those banks with which the island is surrounded, and we were not long in seeking land, which we fortunately reached with everything which we thought we should need. By a special dispensation of Providence, the winds and waves threw the remains of our vessel on shore; we gathered them to

gether to try, with the aid of God, to put ourselves in a position to leave this sorry dwelling. The island where we now found ourselves was destitute of trees. We were, therefore, obliged to depend upon the wood that the sea brought us to build our cabins and warm ourselves. We gave to this desert place the name of Bering island, in honor of the chief of our expedition, and it was there that he died, on the 8th of December, of grief and sorrow at having to give up all hope of returning to Kamshatka. He refused to eat or drink, and disdained the shelter of our cabins; his advanced age could not rally under such a disaster. We young men kept our courage up, resisted with firmness all discouragement, made it a duty to still enjoy life and to make as much as we could out of our prison home. Before our arrival, Bering island was the refuge only of the inhabitants of the sea, who came there to breathe the air and deposit their young. We were, therefore, able at first to observe these creatures very closely without their taking fright. It was only after having seen several of their number fall before our guns that they fled at our approach. We killed a great number of them, as much to furnish us with food as for their skins. It was by these valuable spoils, splendid castor skins, that we were repaid in some measure for our sufferings.

"At the approach of spring the following year we built of the remains of our vessel, as we had intended, a large covered boat, furnished with anchors and sails and able to live at sea if not exposed to storms. In this boat we confided ourselves to the sea, trusting in Providence, the 17th of August, 1742, and after nine days at sea, with beautiful calm weather, we arrived safely at Avatscha on the 26th, giving thanks to the Almighty, who had delivered us from such great dangers, and imbued us with gratitude such as time can never efface.

"From this account we can correct the error of M. de l'Isle, who places Bering island at the 54th degree, only a short distance from Avatscha, whereas it is on the 56th parallel, sixty miles from Avatscha and forty Dutch miles from the mouth of the Kamshatka river.

"The voyage of M. Tschirikow, although attended with less fatigue and danger, was not less painful to him. His tender heart, which his profession of mariner had not rendered indifferent to the sufferings of others, was indeed sorely tried. After parting from M. Bering, sailing northwest, he came on the 15th of July to a country the shores of which were lined with rugged rocks, at the foot of which rolled a deep sea. He prudently refrained from approaching too near the shore, but at the end of three days sent the pilot, Abraham Dementiew, with a crew of ten men, to reconnoiter the country. Neither Dementiew nor any of those who accompanied him ever returned; and most sincerely was he mourned, and deservedly so, for he was young, good-looking, of an honorable family, steady and clever in his profession, and zealous in the service of his country. After waiting six days, M. Tschirikow sent the boatman, Sidor Sawelef, with three men, but they did not return any more than the others. While waiting for their return we constantly saw smoke on the shores, and the day after the departure of the boatman two men, in different boats, came from the spot where Dementiew and Sawelew had

Account of the Russian Officer (Waxel).


landed. When they had approached near enough to be heard they began to call out, ‘Agai, agai,' and then went back. M. Tschirikow did not know what to think of their conduct, and now, despairing of the return of his men and having no more boats to send on shore, he determined, on the 27th of July, to leave the place, follow the coast as much as possible, and then return to Kamshatka. M. de l'Isle, then, makes an addition of his own when he says that 'M. Tschirikow made many excursions into the country, during the month of August, while waiting for the return of his men.' To return to the truth, M. Tschirikow, in a distance of one hundred miles, never lost sight of land; he battled often with contrary winds, had much anxiety on account of the heavy fogs, and lost an anchor which he had put out, not far from the coast, in a moment of great danger. He was visited by twenty-one canoes, of tanned skins, each one containing a man; but this was all-for he was unable to converse with them. The scarcity of water and the scurvy carried off many of his men. Among the officers he lost two lieutenants-Lichatschew and Plautin, fine men and excellent mariners-who might have rendered good service had they lived. M. Tschirikow himself began to have the symptoms of disease, but good food and the air on land restored him to health. M. de la Croyere was not so fortunate; he appeared to have held his own until he was just at the point of death. His companions marveled at the good effects of the large quantities of brandy which he drank every day; but they soon saw that the only good it did him was to make him forget his sufferings. He died on the 10th of October, as they were entering the port of Avatscha, having dressed himself to go on shore and having celebrated his arrival by new excesses. We cannot ignore the important service rendered by M. de la Croyere to the expedition, when he recognized the Americans who came to M. Tschirikow as bearing great resemblance to the inhabitants of Canada, whom he had met while serving in that country seventeen years before coming to Russia, with the King of France's troops."

NOTE. A pamphlet which has just come into my possession, entitled "Lettre de Monsieur d'Anville au R. P. Castel, Jesuit. Au sujet des Pays de Kamtchatka,” etc (24mo, Paris, 1737), throws some light on the map of du Halde (1732), and definitely fixes the date and locality of the observation of the eclipse of the moon referred to by de l'Isle and the Russian officer, as well as later geographers.

* * *

D'Anville says: "The map of Bering's voyage is attributed to me. * * * The only part I had therein was to reduce it from the much larger original map, of which I had made a tracing by means of oiled paper. I first learned of Bering's voyage by letters from de l'Isle, then in Russia; and finally an account of this voyage having been sent to R. P. du Halde by His Majesty Stanislas, King of Poland, it was placed in my hands.

31-NAT. GEOG. MAG., VOL. III, 1891.

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