Bering’s Voyages An Account of the Efforts of the Russians to Determine the Relation of Asia and America.

Covers the Log Books and Official Reports of the First and Second Expeditions 1725-1730 and 1733-1742. The reading reported in these volumes is mainly about the voyages themselves, not the kind of recreational reading we find elsewhere.

Volume I includes an account of the log books and reports of the navigators….

p. 49: After reading the various descriptions of Kamchatka and the log books of the navigators one is forced to conclude that there was a great deal of confusion on the subject. Strelechnaya Volcano was sometimes called Koryatskaya. Burnirig Volcano was also known as Avacha Volcano, and occasionally one of the last two names was given to the third volcano, which was not supposed to have a name. At the present time the names given to these mountains are: Koryatskaya, Avacha, and Kozelskaya.

The term Isopa disappeared from the maps and the books soon after Bering‘s time. Isopa Cape, or Hook, judging from Steller’s description …and from early charts is no other than Povorotni Cape of modern maps.

p. 350, a Bibliographical Note describes the resources on which these books are based:

In the archives of the Ministry of Marine at Paris there is a collection of valuable papers as yet unpublished. These are letters, copies of journals, charts, reports of conversation, newspaper clippings, and other such material collected by the members of the Delisle family—all of which throw interesting side lights on the period and the men. The papers which are of special importance for this study are those gathered by Joseph Nicolas Delisle during his twenty-one years’ (1726 1747) residence at the Russian capital as an officer of the Academy. Those of his papers which have recently come to light in the Bibliothéque Nationale have been discussed by Isnard.

The principal materials for the present work are the original log books and other naval papers of the navigators. They have all been preserved except the journal of the St. Peter , which was lost at the time of the wreck of the ship. The documents dealing with Bering’s second expedition have never been published, not even in Russia, and have been used only once before—by Sokolov for his study. But even Sokolov was ignorant of the existence of some of the material. On his return from Petrograd in 1917 the author prided himself on having examined all the documents, but it seems that he was mistaken. His attention has recently been called to a reference by Eugen Buchner (“Die Abbildungen der Nordischen Seekuh,” St. Petersburg, I891, p. I) to “eine handsschriftliche Beschreibung der zweiten Bering’schen Expedition. . . die den Schiffs-Capitain Swen Waxell . . . zum Verfasser hat,” which is deposited in the Emperor’s private library in Tsarskoe Selo. Whether this is merely a copy of the document here published or something different it is difficult to say. It cannot be greatly different since the same man wrote both; however, that is an open question for the time being.

Volume II deals with the journal of Georg Wilhelm Steller, which throws much light on the second expedition and furnishes valuable scientific data. The beginning of this volume has a fascinating portrait of Steller, his part in the second expedition, and his eventual death from alcoholism in 1746 after alienating most of his colleagues.

p. vii-xi, Preface, very interesting account of the manuscript history of the Steller journal.

p. 2: Among the Steller papers in the archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences there is the following list of books which Muller and Gmelin gave Steller when he parted from them:

Caspari Bauhini Pinax. [Gaspard Bauhin: Pinax theatri botanici, Basel, 1596, 1623.]

Turnefortii Institutiones rei herbariae. cum corollario. [Joseph Pitton de Tournefort: Institutiones rei herbariae, 3 vols., Paris. 1700.]

Thomae Willis Opera omnia. [Thomas Willis: Opera omnia, 2 vols., Geneva, 1680 (later imprints also)1]

Ioann Ra_v Methodus emendata et aucta, I710. [John Ray: Methodus plantarum emendata et aucta, Leyden. 1703 (first publ. London, 1682).]

De variis plantarum methodis dissertatio. [John Ray: De variis plantarum methodis dissertatio. London. 1696.]

Stirpium Europearum extra Britannias nascentium sylloge. [John Ray: Stirpium europearum extra Britannias nascentium sylloge. London, 1694.]

Synopsis methodica animalium quadripedium et serpentini generis. [John Ray: Synopsis methodica animalium quadrupedum et serpentini generis, London, 1693. 1696.]

p. 7: His cutting remarks about the officers of the St. Peter show what a poisonous pen he had; there is reason to believe that he had a sharp tongue as well. In describing to the Senate the scene that took place on board the ship, when he asked to be allowed to land on Kayak Island, Steller says: “Then I turned on Captain Commander Bering and in no gentle words told him what I thought of him and what I would do if he did not let me go.”

If Steller treated Bering in this manner we can easily guess what he did to Khitrov, Waxel, and to some of the smaller fry from whom he had no favors to expect. They hated him and he despised them, and their life on board was as disagreeable as can be imagined. It would be worse than a waste of time to sit in judgment and try to decide the rights and wrongs. In the first place, we have only one side of the story, Steller’s; the other men have left no memoirs. In the second place, they were all living under abnormal conditions and were not altogether responsible. They all suffered from disease, vermin, cold, hunger, thirst, and despondency, and their actions and quarrels are psychologically interesting and nothing more, showing as they do how men will act under certain conditions. In reading of their voyage it would be much better to think less of their quarrels and more of their glorious deeds.

p. 85: p. 85: Of Gentiana several species are known from the Shumagins. The one referred to by Steller is probably G. acuta Michx. or G. frigida , of which specimens collected by Dr. Golder in the Shumagins are in the U. S. National Herbarium.

In this connection it is interesting to read the following explanation of the name Herba britannica for Rumex aquaticus , also known as water rhubarb, as given in “Allgemeines Polyglotten-Lexicon der Natur geschichte,” Vol. 2, Hamburg, 1794, col. 1184: “The name Britannica , according to Munting, is said not to be derived from the island of that name, but to be compounded from the Frisian brit , to make fast , a tooth; ica or hica , ejection, and consequently to denote the power of the plant to make loose or rickety teeth fast again.”