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DISCOVERIES OF THE RUSSIANS.
DESIRE OF RUSSIA To COMMUNICATE WITH AMERICA. - EXPEDITION DESIGNED BY THE CZAR PETER. — HIS INSTRUCTIONS. - FIRST VOYAGE OF BEHRING. - ITS RESULT. - AMERICA MARKED IN RUSSIAN MAPs. – EXPEDITION OF SCHESTAKOFF.HIS FATE. – ExtRAORDINARY MARCH OF PAULUTSKI. - VOYAGE OF KRUPISHEF. – HE DISCOVERS AMERICA. EFFECTS OF THE DISCOVERY. — ATTEMPTS TO NAVIGATE THE ICY SEA. — JAPANESE WESSEL WIRECKED ON KAMTSCHATKA, —SPANGBERG VISITS YEDZO.—BEHAVIOUR OF THE JAPANESE To WALTON.—SECOND VOYAGE OF BEHRING AND TSCHIRIKOF, — THEY ARE SEPARATED. — BEHRING REACHES AMERICA. INTERCOURSE WITH THE NATIVES. – DISTRESS OF THE RUSSIANS. – THE SHIP CAST AWAY. — THEY WINTER ON A DESERT ISLAND.— DEATH OF BEH.RING. --THE REMAINS OF HIS COMPANY ESCAPE. — VOYAGE OF TSCHIRIKOF. - DISCOVERY OF THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS. - SETTLEMENTS OF THE RUSSIANS. – CONCLUSION.
Russia, continually endeavouring to enlarge towards the east an empire already too extensive, pushed her discoveries on that side as far as the extreme frontier of Asia; and did not relinquish the hope of one day adding to her vast dominions in the old world some portion of the new continent. Nor did these hopes appear destitute of foundation. Her Cossack emissaries could not in the end fail to reach America: for whether the two continents were united to the north and formed a continued land, or were separated by a strait, no obstacles could be imagined capable of forming an insuperable barrier to the progress of these hardy and intrepid adventurers. Yet it could not be expected that hunters wholly unacquainted with the art of navigation, and who only tempted fortune at sea, from time to time, merely for the purpose of hunting on the islands near the coast of Kamtschatka, would be able to procure such intelligence as should leave no doubt respecting the relative situation of Asia and America. An ignorant hunter might easily land on the latter continent, and, finding there the same animals and productions as on the opposite shores of Asia and the intermediate islands, might return without being aware of his discovery. No certain information could be obtained in this respect but by a concerted expedition, entrusted to the direction of an experienced seaman. Peter the Great, to whose ambition the half of a great continent did not seem sufficient, and who engaged warmly in every grand and liberal project, drew up with his own hand, a few days before his death, the instructions for a voyage, whose object was to ascertain whether Asia was separated from America by a strait. The instructions of the emperor were expressed as follows:— 1. To construct at Kamschatka, or other commodious place on the Eastern Ocean, one or two vessels. 2. With them to examine the coasts towards the north and towards the east, to see whether they were not contiguous with America, since their end was not known. 3. To see whether there was any harbour belonging to Europeans in those parts. To keep an exact journal of all that should be discovered, with which the commander was to return to St. Petersburgh. The czar was at first desirous that the whole of the navigation along the north coast of Asia should at the same time be ascertained: for which purpose two vessels were ordered to sail from Archangel to the Icy Sea. But this attempt was not successful: one of the vessels was hemmed in by the ice, and thereby hindered from advancing ; the other was never heard of afterwards. The officers selected to command the eastern expedition were, captain Vitus Behring, a Dane by birth, and Alexoi Tshirikof, a Russian officer. Behring was a captain commandant, or commodore, in the Russian
navy, and had given many proofs of his zeal and ability in the service of the czar. Behring departed from Petersburgh as soon as he had received his orders. The officers and mariners who were to serve under him, with the shipwrights and other artificers, had likewise to travel from Petersburgh to the remotest parts of Siberia. It was proposed to build one vessel at Ochotzk, in which to transport the whole company and their stores to Kamtschatka, where another vessel was to be constructed, so that they might proceed on their voyage of discovery with two vessels in company. These preparations required much time as well as labour, so that above three years elapsed before they were completed. - On the 14th of July, 1728, the expedition sailed from the river of Kamtschatka. In about three weeks they reached the latitude 64° 30', where eight men came rowing towards the vessels in a leathern boat, and demanded of the Russians whence they came and what was their object. One of them swam to the ship, upon seal-skins filled with wind. They said that they were Tshuktzki, and were conversed with by means of a Korjak interpreter. They pointed out a small island to the north, which the Russians afterwards named the Isle of St. Lawrence. Behring did not proceed beyond lat. 67° 18', because, as no land was discernible to the north or east, he conceived that he had ascertained the separation of Asia and America, which was the sole object of his mission. He had, in reality, advanced about a degree and a quarter beyond the most eastern point of Asia, and, without knowing it, had sailed through the strait which separates the old and new worlds. Posterity has since equitably imposed upon it the name of Behring's Strait. The same navigators undertook a second voyage the following year, but without being able to obtain any new information. It is remarkable that Behring, in these voyages, did not once discern the coast of America ; nor does he seem to have shaped his course for discoveries towards
the east. Yet the existence of land in that direction was not an obscure tradition; it was marked even in many maps drawn according to the best information which could be at that time procured. A colonel of Cossacks, named Schestakoff, published a chart at Petersburgh, in 1626, in which was placed an island in the Icy Sea, two days’ journey distant from the mouth of the river Kolyma ; and beyond this island, two days’ journey farther to the north, was placed a coast designated by the name of the Large Country. Another chart, made by an inhabitant of Jakutzk, represented two islands to the east of the Tshuktzki country, the farthest of them above two days’ journey from the main land: and beyond these islands was marked a large country full of forests and abounding in game ; and whose inhabitants, it is noticed, were called by the Tshuktzki Kitchin Eljoet. While Behring was on his northern voyage, colonel Schestakoff proposed to the Russian government “to reduce the Tshuktzki people; to discover the extent of their country; and to examine the Schantarian Isles.” His views coincided with those of the government, and in 1727 he was appointed to the command of the forces which were thought sufficient to carry his designs into execution. Dmitri Paulutski, a captain of dragoons, was joined with him in independent command, and 400 Cossacks were placed at their disposal, besides the garrisons that lay within the jurisdiction of Jakutsk. Schestakoff marched to the head of the Gulf of Peshina, where he met the whole force of the Tshuktzki nation. His little troop did not exceed 150 men; nevertheless he resolved on giving battle. He was killed by an arrow in the engagement that ensued, and his troops were totally routed. Paulutski had in the mean time collected a force of 215 Russians and 220 friendly Siberians, for an expedition into the country of the Tshuktzki. He departed from the fort on the Anadir on the 12th of March, 1731 ; proceeding first north-east, then east, and afterwards directly to the north, till, at the end of two months, he arrived at the Icy Sea, near the mouth of a considerable river. Again setting forward, he proceeded for fifteen days along the sea-coast; the greater part of the time upon the ice, and sometimes at so great a distance from the land that the mouths of the rivers were not discernible. At length, on the 7th of June, he met a large army of the Tshuktzki. He summoned them to submit themselves to the Russian empire. They refused, were attacked and defeated. The Russians rested for eight days after the battle, and then continued their march eastward. They passed two rivers flowing into the Icy Sea, and fought two more battles with the Tschuktzki with the like success. The last of these engagements took place on the 14th of July. Among the slain was found a man whose upper lip was pierced through for the purpose of inserting carved pieces of sea-horses' teeth. From this ornament, it may be conjectured that he was an American. Paulutski and his men crossed overland from the Icy Sea to the shores of the Eastern Ocean, not at a narrow isthmus, but at a considerable distance from the sea; leaving to the left hand a projection of the continent of indefinite extent. When they came near that cape which was supposed to be the most northerly part of the continent seen by Behring, they turned inland, and reached the fort on the Anadir on the 21st of October. This extraordinary march, round the remotest corner of Siberia, partly on the Icy Sea, and partly through the cóuntry of a courageous and determined enemy, occupied six months. The patience and hardihood of Russians alone could have accomplished such an undertaking. In the mean time a Cossack named Krupishef had received orders to equip a vessel, and to sail round Kamtschatka to the country of the Tshuktzki, in order to cooperate with the land forces of Schestakoff and Paulutski. Krupishef sailed accordingly, and stayed some time on the coast of the Tshuktzki without receiving any intelligence respecting the Russian commanders. “A gale of wind forced him from the point of land at which