Joseph Billings

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Joseph Billings (c.1758 – 1806) was an English navigator and explorer who spent the most significant part of his life in Russian service.

Life[edit]

The Billings Expedition[edit]

In 1785, the Russian government of Catherine the Great commissioned a new expedition in search for the Northeast Passage, led by English officer Joseph Billings, who had previously sailed with Captain Cook, and the Russian officer Gavril Sarychev as his deputy and Carl Heinrich Merck as the expedition's naturalist.[1] This enterprise operated till 1795.

Though considered a failure by some scholars because the expenditures outweighed the results, it nevertheless had a substantial record of achievement. Accurate maps were made of the Chukchi Peninsula in Eastern Siberia, the west coast of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands. Members of the expedition landed on Kodiak Island and made an examination of the islands and mainlands of Prince William Sound. Additionally, the expedition compiled a census of the native population of the Aleutian Islands and reported to the crown stories of abuse by the Russian fur traders (promyshlenniki).[2]

End of life[edit]

After the Expedition, Joseph Billings remained with the Imperial Russian Navy, before retiring in 1797 and settling in Moscow.

Billings died in Moscow on June 18, 1826 at the age of 45 years.[3]

Legacy[edit]

Cape Billings in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug was named after him.

Contemporary works about Billings expedition[edit]

Three contemporary accounts about the Billings expedition were written.[4]

The first account to be published was entitled 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, performed ... by Commodore Joseph Billings, in the years 1785, &c to 1794 and was written by Billings' secretary and interpreter Martin Sauer.It was published in London by T. Cadell in 1802.

In the same year was also published G. A. Sarychev's account, written in Russian and comprising 2 volumes which were accompanied by a folio atlas of 50 sheets, under the title Puteshestvie flota kapitana Sarycheva po severo-vostochnoj chasti Sibiri, Ledovitomu morju i Vostochnomu okeanu s 1785 po 1793 god (Navy Captain Sarychev's Voyage in the North-Eastern Part of Siberia, Icy Sea and Eastern Ocean over Eight Years, under the Supervision of Navy Captain Billings from 1785 until 1793).It was published in St. Petersburg.[5][6]

The third account was written by Carl Heinrich Merck.His journal had been lost but was rediscovered in 1935.[7] It was first published in 1980.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jones, Ryan (2006). "Sea Otters and Savages in the Russian Empire: The Billings Expedition, 1785-1793". Journal for Maritime Research 8 (1): 106–121. doi:10.1080/21533369.2006.9668358. 
  2. ^ Jones, Ryan (2006). "Sea Otters and Savages in the Russian Empire: The Billings Expedition, 1785-1793". Journal for Maritime Research 8 (1): 106–121. doi:10.1080/21533369.2006.9668358. 
  3. ^ Nuttall, Mark (2012). Encyclopedia of the Arctic vols.1, 2 and 3 (A to Z). New York and London: Routledge, p.243. ISBN 978-1136786808. 
  4. ^ Inglis, Robin (2008). Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Northwest Coast of America. Lanham, Maryland; Toronto; Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, p.289. ISBN 978-0810855519. 
  5. ^ Speake, Jennifer (ed.) (2014). Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia vol. 1 (A to F). London and New York: Routledge, p.900. ISBN 978-1579582470. 
  6. ^ "The Naming of Alaska Explorers: "S"". ExploreNorth. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Inglis, Robin (2008). Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Northwest Coast of America. Lanham, Maryland; Toronto; Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, p.216. ISBN 978-0810855519. 
  8. ^ Speake, Jennifer (ed.) (2014). Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia vol. 1 (A to F). London and New York: Routledge, p.900. ISBN 978-1579582470. 

External links[edit]