Although his name is more commonly reminiscent of other
nationalities, Johann Adam von Krusenstern was Russian. Born in
Estonia in 1770, he served in the Russian Imperial Navy as a cadet
before joining the British Royal Navy in 1793. This allowed
him to travel the globe and visit, among other countries, India and
Convinced of the benefits of a direct commercial shipping route
between Russia, China and Alaska, then a Russian colony, he
received the support of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, who
appointed him captain and provided him with two ships, purchased
from the British in Hamburg, to aid the endeavour.
The ships set sail from St. Petersburg on 7 August 1803.
Krusenstern would not return from his epic expedition until three
years later, in August 1806.
As was customary for expeditions of this type, Krusenstern was
accompanied by men of science, who collected samples of flora and
fauna and drafted precise accounts of the different discoveries
made en route. They were also joined by an ambassador entrusted
with improving relations with Japan, a country that permitted just
one Russian ship to dock each year.
The expedition sailed initially to the Canary Islands before
crossing the Atlantic and eventually arriving at the Brazilian
coast. Krusenstern subsequently passed Cape Horn and sailed up the
Pacific before dropping anchor at the Marquesas Islands. There, he
was fascinated by the inhabitants, with their slender figures,
beautiful tattoos and the warm welcome accorded them, particularly
by the women - this doubtless due to the fact that they believed
that the Europeans' ships came from the clouds and the thunder was
the product of their cannons.
He proceeded to sail to the Sandwich Islands, present-day
Hawaii, where the two ships parted. Krusenstern set sail for the
west on the Nadezhda, while the other ship, the Neva, departed for
the east to explore the American coast.
The expedition approached the Japanese coast in October
"Arnold's chronometer, No. 128, and that by Pennington, which on
this day did not vary a second from each other, gave us the
longitude = 223°16' and Arnold's small chronometer, No.1856, =
223°30'45'', and by the mean of twenty calculations of the moon's
distance from the sun which we observed the next day the error of
No. 128 was only 2'. This near coincidence left us no doubt upon
the rate of all our watches, and I waited with impatience to see
the coast of Japan which we could now so correctly determine."
At that time, the Japanese did not enjoy a reputation for being
a particularly welcoming nation, and Krusenstern learnt this to his
cost. After docking in Nagasaki, all their weapons were confiscated
and they were forced to remain on board the ship for a month. Among
the passengers, was the ambassador, who had been bearing a number
of gifts. The Dutch, who were already on the island and would have
been able to serve as interpreters, also displayed scant
willingness to help them. They were subsequently placed under house
arrest for over four months, before ultimately being ordered to
leave, ambassador and gifts in tow, and informed that no Russian
ship would ever be permitted to dock in Japan.
The Nadezhda took over 18 months to reach St. Petersburg after a
long, drawn-out voyage via Formosa, the China Sea and the Cape of
Good Hope. Krusenstern thus became the first Russian captain to
circumnavigate the world, and this without the loss of a single
crewmember. He doubtlessly owed this to extremely well-prepared
ships and his outstanding skill as a navigator, coupled with the
excellence of his chronometers and the astronomer responsible for
these, Dr Horner, who was, incidentally, Swiss by birth.
Krusenstern, Adam Johann von, Captain,Voyage round the