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

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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 4 months ago by Daniel Lin
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