Three Accounts of the Vasil'ev-Shismarev Expedition of 1819-1822

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Capt. Shishmarev's information about the Chukchi



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Chapter 6

Shishmarev's Article

This article by Shishmarev is apparently the only published account of the expedition dealing with a topical subject. It appeared in 1851, and except for the opening and closing paragraphs was taken directly from his journal.

Captain Shishmarev's Information about the Chukchi in 1821

In addition to information about the Chukchi of the northeast coast of Siberia collected by Plenisner (1765),1 Billings (1791), Sarychev (1791), and Litke (1828), we are adding information gathered by Captain Shishmarev on the sloop "Good Intent" in 1821 on St. Lawrence Island and in St. Lawrence and Mechigmenskaia bays during his famous expedition with Captain Vasilev in Bering Strait, described in Berkh's chronological history and in the article, "Russian voyages round the world" by G. Ivashintsov of parts VII and VIII of our journal.2 This information, in its comprehensiveness surpassing everything before it, is taken from Mr. Shishmarev's journal preserved in the archives of the Hydrographic Department.

"With good weather and a slight breeze from the WSW (on July 9, 1821), we succeeded, while sailing, in surveying

Last edit 6 months ago by Daniel Lin

Dorothy Jean Ray, letter, to Edward Connery Lathem, 1970 July 9




This expedition has received almost not attention in our English histories of Alaska, and so far I have not seen it mentioned in the Russian. Bancroft (p. 526) said, "No report of the expedition is extant," and neither Andrews (The Story of Alaska) or Hulley (Alaska, 1741-1953) mention it at all. Dall in Alaska and its History devotes only 62 words to it, without documentation, in a chronological listing of historical evernts (pp. 331, 332).

My first step in this search was to consult the Arctic Bibliography, which did not yield any results. My next step was to consult Wickersham's Bibliography of Alaskan Literature, 17241924, where I found three items, Nos. 6287, 6291, and 6292 pertaining to the journey. The first one is the long account that I mentioned in my letter to Peter-- an account of the two-year voyage of the Good Intent written by K. K. Hillsen, who was under Shishmarev. It contains valuable ethnographic and historic information about Alaska, St. Lawrence Island and Siberia. The second item contains only progress reports in 1820 of a few pages. No. 6292, I discovered, is a considerably shortened version of Hillsen's account written in German.

Of the above, we shall translate the Hillsen article and the progress reports, but there are two other articles that I want to include , and which I found purely by accident. During my incarceration in the Library of Congress last fall I checked the tables of contents of all journals that I thought might contain articles about the expeditions to Bering Strait: Morskoi Sbornik, Otechestvennye zapiski (in which Hillsen's three-part article appeared), Sievernyi arkhiv, Syn otechestva, and Zapiski Gidrograficheskago Detartamenta, etc., and the more recent journals and state and national ethnographic and historical series. In Zapiski Gidr. Dep. for 1851 I found the article, "Svedeniia o Chukchakh, Capt. Shishmarev." which contains his observations of the Chukchi in his journey of 1821.

Then, by pure change, I discovered Vassili Berkh's Khronologicheskaia istoriia vseikh puteshestvii v sievernyia poliarnyia strany (Chonological history of all voyages to the Arctic), volumes I and II, 1821, 1823, in an uncatalogued collection of books that had come to the Smithsonian Libraries from William H. Dall's estate. I had inquired about Dall's manuscript collection, now in the Smithsonian, and the librarian Mr. Marquardt gave me permission to look through Dall's wonderful collection of books, which has now been broken up and is in the process of being catalogued.

I had never heard of this publication before (Berkh's history of the discovery of the Aleutians in well known and has even been translated). In volume two of the Chronological history of the voyages are good summaries of various northern expenditions up to the date of publication, including Vasiliev's and Shishmarev's two-year voyage.

At that time I had not see Lada-Mocarski's Bibliography of Books on

Last edit 5 months ago by Daniel Lin

Dorothy Jean Ray, letter, to Peter B. Dirlam, 1970 June 28



3001 Veazey Terrace N. W., #317 Washington, D. C. 20008 28 June 1970

Mr. Peter B. Dirlam Box 416 Southbridge, Mass. o1550

Dear Peter:

I have come up with an idea for and interesting project, but I'm writing you to see if you can give me information that might help solve a little problem of possible sources of funds for translating.

The writing of my ethnohistory has been at a stanstill for many months because of my Russian translating. I believe that I told you that I had taught myself to read Russian as a sort of survival measure-sink or swim-in the oceans of valuable material locked up in the Cyrillic alphabet. I'm not especially good, but I have been able to accomplish everything I set out to do.

myThis particular project has to do with Vasiliev's and Shishmaref's two-year expedition to the arctic (Kotzebeu Sound, northern Siberia, etc.) in 1820 and 1821. This expedition has rarely been mentioned in books and articles about Alaskan history. Bancroft in his History of Alaska said, "No report of the expedition is extant" (thought he had hired Ivan Petroff as full-time translator), and neither Andrews or Hulley even mentions it. In the course of buring myself in the Library of Congress I have found five accounts of this expedition, four in Russian and one in German. Three of these should be translated for the use and enjoyment of those who cannot read Russian. It will add a missing chapter to exploration of the North.

The longest account by K. K. Hillsen (about 35,000 Russian words) was written by a man aboard the Good Intent (Shishmaref's ship) and was published in three installments in a journal in 1849. It is primarily about the doings of the Good Intent in both 1820 and 1821, but also mentions a great deal about Vasiliev's movements. A second account is a summary of this article in German, published in 1851.

A third account is about an 18 page or 4000 word summary of the entire expedition by Vasilii Berkh, and published in 1823. A fourth account is merely a summary of this. A fifth account is a very interesting article of about 8000 words containing Shishmaref's observations about the Chukchi in 1821.

Because my Russian is strictly of a home-grown variety, I take important passages to a Russian-born friend who translates for me verbatim. However, we have translated very little of this expedition because the

Stef. does not have those.

Last edit 5 months ago by Daniel Lin
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