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Document Number: AJ-099
Author: Steller, Georg Wilhelm, 1709-1746
Title: Steller's Journal of the Sea Voyage from Kamchatka to America and Return on the Second Expedition, 1741-1742
Source: Golder, F.A. (editor). Bering's Voyages: An Account of the Efforts of the Russians to Determine the Relation of Asia and America. (New York: American Geographical Society, 1925). Volume 2.
Pages/Illustrations: 322 / 19
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-099/

Author Note

Born in Windsheim, Franconia, on March 10, 1709, Georg Wilhelm Steller studied theology, medicine, and botany at university, and graduated with high honors. Despite his academic success, he could not find work in Germany and traveled as an army surgeon to Russia. The Academy of Sciences sent him to Kamchatka to join Bering’s voyage as a naturalist. On the ship, he was disliked by Bering and his men, but was able to do extensive work cataloging the flora and fauna of Alaska. When the crew was stranded on an island in the Bering Straight, it was Steller who saved many crewmembers by searching out the plants and meat that saved them from scurvy.

On the return trip to Kamchatka, Stellar began drinking and upon his return was hounded by the Russian government. In November of 1746, despite ill health, he set off in a snowstorm for the Russian city of Tyumen, and froze to death.

Expedition of 1741-1742

The stated purpose of the expedition was to determine if Asia and America were joined by land. Russia was also interested in extending Russian territory to include part of North America. In 1741, Bering reached Alaska, but the return trip proved ill fated. Bering and half of the crew perished on what is now known as Bering Island located roughly two hundred kilometers east of the Kamchatka.

Document Note

Steller's extensive work as a naturalist on Bering’s second voyage was almost lost when he died prematurely at the age of thirty-seven. Instead, a friend of his, naturalist P.S. Pallus, edited his journals after his death and published them. As a result, we have first hand accounts of species that were extinct before other naturalists could describe them, such as Steller’s Sea-Cow, and other naturalists such as Pallus and Linneas could build on his pioneering work.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

For more information on this topic visit California Academy of Sciences, Science Under Sail, “Russia’s Great Voyages”
http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/science_under_sail/ biodiversity.html

The following link is to an essay previously published by the Buffalo News, written by Gerry Rising: http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~insrisg/nature/nw99/steller.html.

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