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Document Number: AJ-132
Author: Lisiansky, Urey, 1773-1837
Title: A Voyage Round the World: In the Years 1803, 4, 5, & 6 [excerpt]
Source: Lisiansky, Urey. A Voyage Round the World: In the Years 1803, 4, 5, & 6; Performed by Order of His Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia, in the Ship Neva, by Urey Lisiansky, Captain in the Russian Navy, and Knight of the Orders of St. George and St. Vladimer. (London: Printed for John Booth; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, 1814). Pages viii-xxi; 95-244; 326-337; and 362-367.
Pages/Illustrations: 188 / 28 (20 of tables)
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-132/

Author Note

Yuri F. Lisiansky (1773-1837) was born into an aristocratic Ukrainian family and chosen as a young child for a naval career. He began it as a fifteen-year-old midshipman, when he saw intense military action during Russia’s war with Sweden. He was soon sent to England to learn naval skills and tactics. As a British seaman, he sailed in 1794 for North America where he fought the French from Nova Scotia to the West Indies. During 1795-1796 he traveled through the young United States, meeting George Washington in Philadelphia and visiting Savanna, Boston, and Halifax before returning to England in 1797. On an English vessel he sailed to the Cape of Good Hope and traveled several hundred miles into the African interior before sailing for Madras and Bombay in 1798. He returned to Russia in 1800 permanently affected by tropical illnesses and battle injuries.

Although the round-the-world-voyage described here was the pinnacle of Lisiansky’s career, he returned from it in broken health. He was awarded an annual pension of three thousand rubles and in 1807 was put in charge of all the private yachts of the Czar, but had to retire altogether in 1809. He devoted his remaining years to writing his account of the voyage and to private life, dying in 1837 at St. Petersburg.

Expedition of 1803-1806

In August 1802 Lisiansky was named co-commander of the first Russian voyage to circle the globe. Its purposes were to re-supply trading posts and missions in Alaska, to chart the North Pacific, and to collect scientific data. Lisiansky purchased two ships in London in September 1802 which were brought back to Russia for outfitting. They then sailed in August 1803, rounded Cape Horn, and reached Easter Island in the Pacific the following April. The expedition parted company at the Marquesas in the South Pacific, with Lisiansky heading northeast to Hawaii and Alaska and his companion northwest for China and Kamchatka.

Lisiansky stopped only about ten days in Hawaii in June 1804 before heading on to Kodiak Island in southwestern Alaska, where the expedition spent a month. In August 1805 it crossed to the Russian settlement at Sitka, in southeastern Alaska, for which Lisiansky had brought a shipload of supplies. After spending the autumn at Sitka, he crossed in November 1804 back to Kodiak to spend the winter and the spring of 1805. In June 1805 he returned to Sitka for the summer, leaving on September 1, 1805, for China. The expedition then traveled from Canton, across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope, arriving back in Europe in June 1806.

Document Note

Lisiansky was a more successful commander than author. Perhaps because he had spent most of his career speaking English on British ships, his official account was rejected by the Admiralty three times “because of my errors in the Russian language.” Finally in 1812 he published it at his own expense in two volumes with an atlas. He also translated it into English himself for publication in London in 1814 (the edition excerpted here). Six other participants also left personal accounts of the expedition.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

A detailed biography of Lisiansky is available at the (Russian) International Sail Training Academy site at http://www.neva2003.com/lisiansky.htm

For general background on the Russians in the North Pacific, see the National Library of Canada site, “Pathfinders and Passageways” at http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/24/h24-1740-e.html

A wide variety of information can also be found on the Library of Congress site “Meeting of Frontiers” at http://memory.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfhome.html which contains books, manuscripts, maps, and background information on Russian settlements in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

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