« ForrigeFortsett »
Behring's voyage had terminated : he steered towards the east, and found, first an island, and afterwards a country of great extent. As soon as they had sight of this land, a man came to them in a canoe like to those of the Greenlanders. They could only understand from him that he was an inhabitant of a large country where there were many animals and forests. The Russians followed the coast of this land two whole days without being able to approach it, when a storm came on, and they returned to Kamtschatka.”
This voyage of Krupishef completed the discovery of Behring's Strait, and proved the proximity of the Asiatic and American continents. It encouraged the Russian government to continue those researches. Behring, and the officers who had served under him in his northern voyage, received marks of distinction, and a variety of plans were formed for expeditions and enterprises by sea. One object proposed was to ascertain, if possible, an entire navigation from Archangel to Kamtschatka : another, of which Behring himself was to undertake the execution, was to discover the exact distance between Kamtschatka and the coast of America in the same parallel. The first of these objects was never attained. Many expeditions were fitted out to examine the northern coast of Siberia, but they all had an unfortunate result. The navigation from the Yenisei to the Lena has never been accomplished: many brave men have perished in the attempt to effect it; but the Taimura promontory, which stretches to the seventy-eighth degree of latitude, and is always environed by an immense barrier of ice, seems to interpose an insurmountable obstacle to navigation.
About the time when these various plans were in agitation, an extraordinary accident gave a fresh impulse to the geographical ardour of the Russian government. A Japanese vessel, laden with silks, cotton, rice, and pepper, was forced by stress of weather to a distance from the land ; and after being tossed for some months, it is said, at sea, was wrecked on the exterior or eastern
coast of Kamtschatka. The crew got to land, and saved the most valuable part of the cargo. The Cossacks, stationed near the place, soon came to the wreck; but their expectations not being satisfied with the presents they received, they fell upon the Japanese, and murdered them all but two-an old man and a boy of eleven years old. The Cossack officer was afterwards punished for this crime; and the two surviving Japanese arrived in Petersburgh in 1732. This affair drew the attention of the government towards Japan, an intercourse with which country had long been coveted by the Russians ; but now it occurred to them, for the first time, that it would be advisable to ascertain the relative geographical position of the two countries.
In 1739, captain Martin Spangberg, who had accompanied Behring in his voyage to the north, and lieutenant William Walton, sailed on an expedition, the chief purpose of which was to ascertain the exact situation of Japan with respect to Siberia. On leaving the. Kurili Islands, they were separated by tempestuous weather. Spangberg arrived at the coast of Japan, in latitude 38° 41' N. Great numbers of Japanese vessels were seen sailing along the coast; the country seemed well cultivated, and crowded with villages. The Russians were afraid to go on shore, and continued to keep under sail. On one day seventy-nine fishing-boats were counted near Spangberg's vessel. It was remarked that, instead of iron, the Japanese use brass and copper in building their boats. There came at length to the Russian vessel a large boat, in which, besides the rowers, were four men in embroidered habits, who appeared like persons of distinction. They were invited into the cabin, and on entering it bowed low, with their hands over their heads, and remained in that position till the captain desired them to rise. A globe and sea chart were presented them, and they readily pointed to their own country, which they call Niphon. Spangberg believed that he had fulfilled the object of his voyage, and accordingly set sail to return. In latitude 43° 50' he arrived at a great island, near which he anchored. The inhabitants wore leathern boots, like those of the Kamtschadales and Kurili islanders. They spoke the same language as the latter, but differed from them in having long hair all over their bodies. On seeing a cock on board, they fell on their knees as if to worship it.
Walton reached the coast of Japan in lat. 38° 17'. By following a fleet of fishing-boats, he was conducted to a port in front of a large town or city. A Japanese vessel approached the ship, and with great civility, by signs, invited the Russians to land. A boat was sent, accordingly, with two empty water-casks, and some are ticles to bestow as presents. The shore was lined with Japanese, who crowded to view the strangers; and the moment the boat arrived they kindly offered their services to fill the casks with fresh water. The town seemed to contain about 1500 houses, some of stone, others of wood, and extended nearly two miles along the shore. One of the inhabitants politely invited Kasimerof, who commanded the boat, to take refreshments at his house. Wine, fruits, and sweetmeats, were presented in vessels of porcelain. Shops were numerous in the streets, and the country around was richly cultivated with grain and peas. The Japanese afterwards visited the ship, and carried on some traffic with the Russian crew on deck. Walton sailed about ninety leagues to the south, along the east side of Japan. The inhabitants were every where willing to enter into an intercourse with the Russians; but an officer at length interfered, and prohibited the people from visiting the ship. Walton, in consequence, returned to Kamtschatka. The voyage of Spangberg and Walton was the first in which the Russians crossed the tracks of other Europeans in the South Sea.
It was not till the 4th of June, 1741, that Behring and Tshirikof, for the third time, set sail from Kamtschatka, with the intention, when they reached the lati. tude of 50° N., to direct their course to the east till they met with the continent of America. On the 20th of the same month the ships were separated in a gale of wind;
and hazy weather coming on after the storm they were never able to rejoin each other.
On the 18th of July, Behring discovered the continent of America, in the latitude of 58° 28', and, according to his reckoning, fifty degrees east from the meridian of Petropawlowska, or St. Peter and St. Paul. The appearance of the land was exceedingly grand, but gloomy. Mountains of great elevation, covered with snow, extended far inland ; and one summit rose to a towering height above the rest. Steller, the German naturalist and physician, who accompanied the expedition, says that he had never seen a higher mountain in Siberia ; he named it Mount St. Elias. The two nearest headlands were called Cape St. Elias and Cape Hermogenes. On the 20th, Behring dropped anchor at a small island not far from the continent. Some huts were found on the main land, but the inhabitants had fled: the Russians took away some dried fish, and other provisions, leaving knives, tobacco, and trinkets in their stead. On putting to sea again, and trying to sail northward, Behring found that the shore of the continent ran south-west. He made his way, with difficulty, through the string of islands which skirt the great peninsula of Alaska. One island, or perhaps small cluster, received the name of Schumagin, from a Russian sailor who was buried there.
In one of these islands some men were seen fishing, and the Russians approached them in a boat, taking with them a Korjak, in the hope that he might serve as an interpreter. Nine Americans were on the shore, and as many canoes, but no women or habitations could be seen. They were unable to understand the Korjak; but immediately perceived that he was different from the Russians, and more like those of their own country. Three Russians landed with the Korjak, and the boat was made fast to a rock. To return this confidence, an American, who appeared to be the oldest of the party, entered the boat. He was presented with a glass of brandy; but, on putting it to his mouth, the strength of it so astonished and alarmed him that he thought him
self betrayed, and, to allay his fears, it was found necessary to set him upon land. The Russians then retired hastily to their boat, but the Korjak was detained by the Americans, who had taken a fancy to him. He called out piteously to the Russians not to abandon him; and they at length fired two shots in the air, which produced the desired effect. The report, echoed from the islands round and the high hills on the main, seemed to come from every side; and the Americans, terrified beyond measure, fell flat on their faces, whereupon the Korjak made his escape. The next day the Americans came alongside the ship in their canoes, bearing a rod with feathers, as a calumet or ensign of peace. They offered presents, and seemed disposed to cultivate the acquaintance of the strangers; but the anchor was heaved, the wind freshened, and they were obliged to hasten back to shore. As the ship sailed from them, they saluted her with loud and repeated cheers.
At the close of September, when the ship quitted the Aleutian Islands, the wind blew constantly from the west, and the weather was damp and foggy. The greater part of the crew also were disabled by the scurvy; so that, in a tempestuous season and unknown seas, the vessel was driven along almost at the mercy of the wind.
Behring himself had for some time been in such a state of indisposition and decline, as no longer permitted him to concern himself about the management of the
On the 4th of November, in lat. 50° N., land was seen before them; and on the following day it was resolved to run for it, the ship being now in a shattered condition, and the scurvy making dreadful ravages among the crew. The sea ran high as the ship approached the shore, and she struck upon a rock. A great wave fortunately threw her over the reef into smooth water; but the condition of the ship, of the ship's company, and the season of the year, made it evident that it would be necessary to remain at this island all the winter. Those