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M A Y, 1803 :
Arr. I. An Account of a Geographical and Astronomical Expedition
to the Northern Parts of Russia, for ascertaining the Degrees of Latitude and Longitude of the Mouth of the River Kovima; of the whole Coast of the Tshutski, to East Cape; and of the Islands in the Eastern Ocean, stretching to the American Coast : Per. formed, by Command of her Imperial Majesty Catherine the Second, Empress of all the Russias, by Commodore Joseph Billings, in the Years 1785, &c. to 1794. The Whole narrated, from the original Papers, by Martin Sauer, Secretary to the Expedition. 4to.
Pp. 400. 21. 2s. Boards. Cadell and Davies. i802. The 'he character of the late Empress of Russia, in all points
of view a prominent object of attention, has been much discussed, and is now perhaps well understood. Possessing some of the imperfections of human nature, in common with the lowest of mortals, yet her mind was not cast in an ordinary mould; and while her frailties for ever sullied her reputation, her talents intitled her to one of the highest stations among those of that elevated rank to which fortune so remarkably conducted her. As a woman, so also as a sovereign, the conduct of Catherine is open to censure: but in the latter view she challenges also much commendation. The wisdom and the patriotism of her measures have been often made manifest; and while her ambition was perhaps boundless, her desire to promote the amelioration of her country and increase the comforts of her subjects was both ardent and active. The volume, of which we are liow to give an account, affords one illustration of the great features of her portrait; and we doubt not that our readers will thank us for a detailed view of its contents.
The abject of the expedition here recorded is sufficiently set forth in ihe title page; and the immediate cause of it is attributed, by Mr. Sauer, to the appearance of Mr. Coxe's account of the Russian discoveries between Asia and America. From the time of that publication, the vast extent of territory acknowleging the sovereignty of Russia became a topic of converVOL. XLI.
sation at Court; and Mr. Coxe and Dr. Pallas suggested the propriety of an expedition for examining those distant parts of the Empire, which Captain Cook was unable to explore. They proposed a plan to the Empress, which she approved : a mandate was ordered to be prepared for the admiralty ; Mr. Billings, who had been astronomical assistant in Cook's last voyage, was appointed to the chief command; and Mr. Sauer, at the request of Mr. Billings and Professor Pallas, accompanied the expedition as private secretary and translator.
The route to be pursued over land, the measures to be adopto ed, and in fact every thing proposed to be accomplished by the undertaking, were precisely laid down in the instructions given to Captain Billings; which instructions are inserted as an appendix to the present volume. They are composed with con- . siderable ability, and contain maxims of the shrewdest policy. The Russian dominion was indeed to be extended, but by measures most mild and conciliatorv ; no force was to be em. ployed against the inhabitants of discovered islands; and attacks were to be guarded and prevented rather than repulsed and punished:
" It is too often the fault of the adventurers, (says the seventeenth article, when they attack these people with fire and sword, and bring them to a kind of despair; on the contrary, humane and friendly be haviour keeps them quiet; it is, therefore, strongly recommended to you to proceed with them in this mild manner, and not to change your conduct till open and unavoidable danger compel you to shed bloods keep yourself in constant readiness, however; employing your arms only to frighten, and not to destroy, these unhappy creatures, endeavour. ing rather io take one of them alive ; and such prisoner you may caress, make him presents, hang a medal about his neck, explaining to him, that by this you make him your friend, and will know him when he comes to you again ; keep him prisoner as short a time as possible; ani, when you release him, give him necessaries, and per. Guade him to tell his countrymen of your behaviour to him, and that he may return to the slip with whom he pleases, without fear; promising kiin, then, presents of instruments for catching animals, or whatever he likes ; and that he will be received in a friendly man. ner by all your people, if he only shews the medal about his neck.”
These temperate and humane orders were issued by a government which had commantied the storming of Ismael and of Warsaw !
In the month of October 1785, the party destined for the Expedition left Petersburgh, and took their route through Mos: ow, Paulova, Kazan, Ecaterineburgh, Tobolsk, Tomsk; and on the 14th of February 1786, the detachment, in which were Captain Billings and the author, arrived at Irkutsk. No material cccurrence happening on the road, and the places passed having been often described, Mr. S. very briefly relates his journey. At Irkutsk, the party expected to receive every necessary article for constructing a ship of 85 feet keel; together with provision, clothing for five years, candles, soap, and every kind of commodity for each officer; in addition to the ordinary allowance for a command of 300 men to be forwarded upwards of 4000 versts (nearly 2650 miles). The capital of Siberia had never before so much business to transact. By great exertions, the instruments, &c. were packed up in hoxes, covered with canvas, pitched all over, and sewn in soal leather ; hatchets, hammers, &c. were received in abundance ; and on the 28th of April, a party of the travellers began to move forwards to Katsheega Pristan.
Irkutsk (according to Mr. Sauer) contains 2500 houses, chiefly of wood, 12 stone churches, a cathedral, and two monasteries ; beside which, there are several public buildings, an hospital, an inoculating house, a seminary for the study of divinity, a public school, a library and collection of curiosities ; also a theatre, of which the performers are all young men and women natives of Irkutsk. The representations are chiefly confined to national pieces, which they get up with astonishing propriety; and they have very excellent musicians belonging to the different regiments, besides the band of the Governor General.'
The longitude of Irkutsk, determined by Captain Billings, is 103°, 46', 45" east of Greenwich, and latitude 52°, 16', 30%. A considerable trade is carried on with the Chinese. Mr. Sauer relates that the prices of articles are now about three times as high as they were when Mr. Coxe reported them.
- The society established, (says Mr. S.,) and the liberal hospitality of the first order of inhabitants, is superior to that in any part of Russia, and really seems to infuse a spirit of consequence into the minds of the lower sort of people. I think that their schools and theatres contribute much to this ; but most of all the tutors to the children of the more opulent. These generally consist of Poles, Swedes, French, and some of the Jesuitic order, who have been under the necessity of traveling
• Numbers of mechanics, artists, and artificers of great abilities, whose exertions were seltish in Russia, here exert themselves for the benefit of the community; and as merit is the chief introduction to independent society, so all who possess it meet with liberal en. couragement ; and, unless their characters are sullied by acts of cri. minality, they are countenanced and supported. The unfortunate are generously distinguished from the villainous.'
If so much virtue exists in Siberia, it is no great punishment, except for the depraved, to be banished thither.
On the 29th of May, Mr. Sauer arrived at Jakutsk, situated on the river Lena, down which the party and goods had been conveyed. Here the navigation ended; and the baggage,
&c. were to be carried, across an uninhabited country, to Ochotsk, for which conveyance 2000 horses were necessary.
On the oth of June, the party in which were Captain Billings and the author left Jakutsk, and crossed the Lena to the plains called the Yarmank. Here Mr. Sauer noticed a remarkable plant called by the Russians Zemlennoi Laudon, or frankincense of the earth, an aromatic root given to children for pains in the bowels ;-and in the same meadows, Mr. S. observed Maiden hair which the Cossacs dry, and use for hops.
Having passed the Aldan, and the ford of the Belia Reka, (White River) Mr. S. on the 23d crossed a mountain called the Tshakdall. Here, he says, ' we observed for the first time the plant called by the Russians Piania Trava (Rhododendron Chrysanthemum), held in great estimation by all the different tribes of Siberian Tartars, as also by the Russians, for its efficacy in curing rheumatic complaints and old ulcerated wounds, from whatever cause they spring. It is drunk in a strong decoction in a vapour bath, and the wounds are washed with it. The mountain tops are covered with this plant and with the (Pinus Cembra) creeping cedar.'
The party with Captain Billings arrived at Ochotsk on the 3d of July, and there met Mr. Saretsheff
, who had been previously deputed to superintend the building of the vessels to be employed in the expedition: but not even the timber for them had been cut; since none that was proper could be found nearer than 70 versts (104) versts make a degree) up the Ochot, and the ship-builders and assistants had been dispatched to fell timber only two days before Captain Billings's arrival.
While at Ochotsk, the party saw a duck-chase, which is curiously managed :
· Toward the evening, of the 14th,' says Mr. S. appearances in. dicated a fine succeeding day, according to the prediction of the Lamuti, who waited on the commandant, requesting his permission to allow them, the Yakuti, and as many of the inhabitants as were will, ing, to go the next morning on a duck-chase out to sea, and return. with the flowing tide. The permission was made public.
• Wednesday the 15th, between three and four o'clock in the morning, the weather being calm and cloudy, about 50 small canoes, with Lamuti, Yakuti, and a few Russians, went out to sea, and returned with the tide at noon, driving before them an immense number of the sea-duck, called Turpan. (Toucan.) When they were got into the bay of Kuchtui, about a mile from its discharge into the sea, they were surrounded by more than 200 canoes, drawn up in a regular line, forming a crescent. Thus inclosed, the tide left them in about six inches water, and all the canoes were aground. A signal * Aelianthum Nigrum, or capillaire.
officer (the policy master) appointed by the commandant gave the word for a general attack, when a scene of the most whimsical confusion ensued. Men, women, and children, plunged in an instant into the water; some armed with short bludgeons, and others with strings and nets. While one knocked on the head all that came in his or her way, others of the same party strung or netted them, all hurly burley, huddling over each other. No field of battle is subject to such a variety of incidents and transitions. An ill-directed blow sometimes lights on the hand of a friend, instead of the head of the foe. Suddenly the shrieks, scolding, and swearing of the women, and wrangling among all, change to peals of laughter and merriment; and the supplication of the ducks, and the noise of myriads of gulls hovering about, form the strangest medley of sounds, perhaps, that were ever heard. The women caught by far the greater quantity ; and the whole number destroyed amounted to more than six thousand five hundred.
• The Turpan is as large as a domestic duck. The neck short ; the bill black, short, and narrow, with a callous knob on the nosa trils ; the feathers black, with dark grey spots. They moult all the quill feathers at once, and consequently cannot fly; being driven, therefore, into shallow water, they are prevented from effecting their escape by diving, and become an easy prey. They taste very fishy, but make an agreeable change of food for the poor inhabitants. When salted and smoke dried, they are esteemed an excellent whet, with a dram, before dinner.'
The instructions given by the Russian government to Captain Billings were to proceed, by sea, from Ochotsk to Izshiga, to cross the country of the Tshutski, and to descend down the Omolon to the Kovima : but this plan was abandoned, chiefly on account of an unfriendly disposition then shewn to the Russians by the Tshutski; and, a proper guide offering to conduct the party to the Kovima by the Amicon, it left Ochotsk on the 3d of August, and crossed the Ochot and Aglikit. Arriving at some Tungoose summer huts, Captain B. hired 22 reindeer, and forwarded Mr. Sauer with dispatches to Lieutenant Bering, (who had been sent from Jakutsk to Virchni Kovima,) directing him to proceed to Seredni, and, if possible, to procure wood for constructing three vessels to navigate the Icy Sea.
• Having with me (says Mr. S.) the ship-builder and my servant, at three P. M. I left the party, mounted on a beautiful young
reindeer; the saddle placed on its shoulders, without stirrups ; no bridle, but a leather thong about five fathom long tied round the head of the deer ; this is kept in the rider's left hand, that he may prevent its escape if he falls, and, when refreshing, have a little scope to select its food. A strong stick about five feet long assists the rider to mount ; though the Tungoose, for this purpose, use their bow; standing on che right side of the deer, they put the left leg upon the saddle, lean on the siick with the right hand, and spring up with astonishing ap