Seebohm was a knowledgeable ornithologist who occasionally mentions books and reading on his long trips in Siberia. In his Preface he compares his earlier volume on Siberia in Europe (1876?) to these later travels in which he had no expert birder: It is possible, however, that the general reader may not regret the change, and may find the
dash of commercial enterprise and Arctic exploration reflected from Captain Wiggins a pleasant relief from the monotony of the toujours oiseaux of my former volume. To some extent, however, ‘Siberia in Asia’ must be a repetition of ‘Siberia in Europe.’ Though the meridian of the Caspian is altered to the meridian of the Gulf of Bengal, the latitude remains the same, … (p. v).
p. 104: I was even more delighted to hear the unmistakable song of
our common European Willow-Warbler, a bird I had never dreamt of meeting with so far east. I shot a pair, and thus satisfactorily demonstrated that our ornithological books were all wrong in giving the Ural range as the eastern limit of this well-known species, during the breeding season. It seems too bad to shoot these charming little birds, but, as the “Old Bushman” says, what is hit is history , and what is
missed is mystery . My object was to study natural history, and one of the charms of the pursuit is to correct other ornithologists’ blunders and to clear up the mysteries that they have left unsolved.
p. 139-40, on a scam dependent on ignorance of Russian: We bought sundry articles from him, paid for them, and got a receipt. These were of the value of seventy-three roubles, and were to be brought down by the steamer to our ship with other articles ordered. When the river became
navigable, the goods were promptly delivered, and the account hurriedly presented for payment as the steamer was
We bought sundry articles from him [a corrupt local merchant], paid for them, and got a receipt. These were of the value of seventy-three roubles, and were to be brought down by the steamer to our ship
with other articles ordered. When the river became navigable, the goods were promptly delivered, and the account hurriedly presented for payment as the steamer was on the point of leaving to go farther down the river. Fortunately for us one of our party could read Russian. He
found that the seventy-three roubles already paid down were included in the amount claimed, and their payment demanded a second time. Twenty odd casks of tallow, and about as many sacks of biscuits were also to be brought down to us by the steamer; in both cases one package less than the| proper quantity was delivered. The Captain promised to have these missing packages found, and left for us at Doo-din’-ka, but I
felt certain that we might as well have at once written off the value to our already sufficiently large plunder account, for, needless to say, we never heard any more of them.
p. 208, in a chapter on the natives of eastern Siberia: We left Gol-
cheek’-a on Tuesday the 24th of July. There were three persons on board with whom I could converse. Besides my aide-de-camp Glinski, I had Boiling’s company as far as Yen-e-saisk’. Boiling was a well-read man who could talk sensibly on almost any subject, and who had lived many
years in Siberia. As far as Vair-skin-sky we were to enjoy the society of Uleman, a native of Saxony, who had emigrated to Poland, and was exiled thirty years ago. He lived by himself at Vair’-skin-sky with no other companions than his dogs and his birds; at one time he had amused himself by rearing foxes, wolves, and birds of different kinds.
p. 223-24: The house we were in was far better than any we had visited between Yen-e-saisk’ and the sea; the rooms were lofty, the windows large, well glazed and double; there was a large and well-built stove in it, and due provision made for ventilation. A special stove was erected to smoke out mosquitoes. A clock hung upon the wall, and there were positively books on a shelf! The carpenters’ work was excellent, evidently planed, and not merely smoothed with an axe.
p. 249-50: The engineer of the telegraph-office here is a German, from Berlin, and he gave me some interesting information about the line, which is leased to a Danish company. It frequently happens when some of the Indian cables are out of order or overcrowded with messages, that from 500 to 1000 English telegrams pass through Kras-no-yarsk’ in a
week. The fact of my travelling companion being a telegraph official, and dressed in the government official uniform, gave us free access to all the telegraph offices, and it was great fun chatting freely from time to time with the friends we had left behind us a thousand miles or more. I found in Kras-no-yarsk’, in consequence of the quantity of baggage
I was bringing home, that I should be short of money, so I wired to St. Petersburg for five hundred roubles, and forty-eight hours afterwards had the notes in my pocket.
I found in Professor Strebeloff a most interesting and highly educated man, and enjoyed his hospitality more than once. To find a scientific man who could read English and speak German was a treat. He gave me a small collection of Siberian spiders for an entomological friend.
p. 259: The monotony of the journey was, however, wonderfully relieved by the abundance of bird life. To lounge on deck with binocular at hand ready to be brought to bear on any interesting bird or group of birds was pleasant pastime. Birds of prey were very numerous.
p. 297, his conclusion: Dr. Dry-as-dust and Professor Red-tape have committed themselves in the pre-Darwinian dark ages of ornithology
to a binomial system of nomenclature, which does not easily lend itself to the discrimination of subspecific forms; and although the American ornithologists have emancipated themselves from the fetters of an antiquated system, English ornithological nomenclators still groan under the bonds of this effete binomial system, and vex the souls of field naturalists with capricious change of names in their futile efforts to make their nomenclature subservient to a Utopian set of rules called the Stricklandian code—laws which are far more honoured in the breach than in the observance, and have done great harm to the true study of birds. It is devoutly to be wished that the rising generation of ornithologists would have the courage to throw the binomial system to the dogs, and trample the Stricklandian code under foot, and once for all study nature, and make their nomenclature harmonise with the facts of nature.
One of the great charms of the study of ornithology is pleasure which comes from labour of any kind is pretty much in proportion to its results, and there are very few, if any, countries in which ornithological field work is not amply repaid by interesting discoveries. I trust that when the reader lays down my book he will agree with me that, in spite of its reputation for dreariness, there are few countries in the world more prolific of objects of interest than Siberia in Asia.