Neva (1802 Russian ship)

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Russian Sloop-of-War Neva.jpg
The Russian ship Neva visits Kodiak
United Kingdom
Name: Thames
Launched: 1801
Fate: Sold 1802
Flag of the Russian-American Company.svgRussian Empire
Name: Thames
Acquired: 1802 by purchase
Renamed: Neva in 1803
Fate: Wrecked Sitka, Alaska, 1812
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 370 bm
Length: 200 ft (61 m)
Sail plan: Sloop
Complement: 43
Armament: 14 guns

Neva was the British merchant ship Thames, launched in 1801, that the Russians bought in 1803, and renamed Neva. She participated in two trips to the Far East, the first of which was the first Russian circumnavigation of the world. She was wrecked in January 1813.


Thames was a 200-foot (61 m)-long, three-masted sailing ship of 370 tons burthen, built in Britain in 1801.

Russian career[edit]

In 1802 Lieutenant Commander Yuri Feodorovich Lisyansky travelled to Britain where he bought two vessels, Thames and Leander, on his own account.

Thames and Leander left England for the Baltic in May 1803, docking at Kronstadt on 5 June.[1] Czar Alexander I renamed Thames to Neva, after the river, and Leander to Nadezhda ("Hope"). The two vessels sailed in 1803 on a voyage that would become the first Russian circumnavigation of the world. For the voyage Neva carried 14 cannon and a crew of 43 men under Lisyansky's command. The commander of the expedition was Admiral Ivan Fyodorovich Kruzenstern, in Nadezhda.[2] Although the vessels were armed, as were many merchant vessels at the time, they were never commissioned into the Russian navy.

Neva played a key role in the 1804 battle of Sitka when the Russians recaptured Fort St Archangel Mikhail and the town from the Tlingit, who had captured it in 1802.[3] In 1804, Alexandr Baranov, general manager of the Russian American Company, had failed in his attempt to recapture Fort St Archangel Mikhail with a force of 120 Russians in four small vessels and 800 Aleuts in 300 baidarkas (leather canoes). Baranov returned to Sitka Sound in late September 1804 aboard Neva. Neva was accompanied by the Ermak and two other smaller, armed sailing ships, manned by 150 promyshlenniks (fur traders), along with 400–500 Aleuts in 250 baidarkas. This force succeeded in returning the region to Russian control.[2] Reportedly, afterwards a shaman placed a curse on Neva and all on her in retribution;[4] some 14 years later she wrecked.

In 1805 Neva discovered Lisianski Island and the surrounding Neva Shoals by running aground there. Lisyansky reported that the island was of little interest, except insofar as its surrounding reefs and shoals posed a threat to passing vessels. Lisyanski was the first to describe the Hawaiian monk seal, which he observed on the island that now bears his name.[5]

In 1805-6, Neva carried a cargo of 150,000 fur seal pelts to China. There she sold them for tea, chinaware and nankeen, which she carried back to Russia.

In 1806-7, Neva made a second trip to the Pacific Ocean, this time under the command of Captain lieutenant Ludwig von Hagemeister. Hagemeister would later become Chief Manager of the Russian American Company.

Neva left Cronstadt on 2 November 1806 and reached Salvador, Brazil on 10 January 1807. She did not leave there until 9 March. Although Hagemeister had originally planned to travel via Cape Horn, it was too late in the season to do so, so he sailed to Port Jackson instead for "wood and water".[6]

In June, Neva became the first Russian ship to reach the Australian mainland when she visited the new British colony at Port Jackson, modern Sydney,[7] on 4 June 1806.[8][Note 1]


Neva left Okhotsk, Russia in August 1812 carrying 75 people and a shipment that included guns and furs. After enduring three months of storms, sickness and water shortages, Neva arrived in Alaska's Prince William Sound. The crew pushed eastward toward Sitka; near Kruzof Island, the ship hit rock and sank. Thirty-two crew members died in the wreck; 28 survivors of the wreck made it to shore, two of whom died before rescuers arrived some three weeks later.[4] The sites of the wreck and the survival camp have been found on Kruzof Island.[10]

The site of the camp is a little inland from the beach. In the 203 years since Neva wrecked, the shoreline has risen some 11 feet due both to movement of tectonic plates because the reduction of weight on the land due to melting of glaciers is causing geologic rebound. At the time of the wrecking, the campsite was beach.[4]

Commemorative coins[edit]

In 1993 Russia issued three coins to commemorate the first Russian voyage around the world. One was a 150-roubles platinum coin showing both Nadezhda and Neva on the reverse. The other two were both 25-roubles palladium coins, one for Nadezhda and one for Neva.

See also[edit]

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ Australian sources show Neva arriving on 16 June from Cronstadt on voyage of discovery. The same records show her leaving 1 July for the "N.W. Coast",[9] or Kadjack (Kodiak, Alaska).[6]


  1. ^ Barratt (1987).
  2. ^ a b Postnikov, A. (2002).
  3. ^ Khlebnikov (1973), pp.44-49.
  4. ^ a b c Rosen (3 April 2015).
  5. ^ Monachus Guardian
  6. ^ a b "SHIP NEWS". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842). NSW: National Library of Australia. 21 June 1807. p. 1. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  7. ^ Massov (2006), pp. 203-214.
  8. ^ Tikhmenev, P. A. A History of the Russia-American Company. ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 1978, p. 185.
  9. ^ "Arrival of Vessels at Port Jackson, and their Departure". Australian Town and Country Journal, Saturday 3 January 1891, p.17. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  10. ^ Pappas, Stephanie (11 September 2015). "Key to Survival Found for Sailors Shipwrecked in Alaska in 1813". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 11 September 2015.


  • Barratt, Glynn (1987). The Russian Discovery of Hawai'I: The Ethnographic and Historic Record. Editions Limited. ISBN 978-0-915013-08-1.
  • Khlebnikov, K.T. (1973) Baranov, Chief Manager of the Russian Colonies in America. (Kingston: The Limestone Press). ISBN 0919642500
  • Massov, Aleksandr (2006). "The visit of the Russian sloop Neva to Sydney in 1807: 200 years of Russian–Australian contacts." Australian Slavonic and East European Studies, Vol. 20, 1-2. School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland. ISSN 0818-8149. [1]
  • Postnikov, A. (2002). Thesis. S.I. Vavilov Institute of the History of Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia —"The first Russian round the world voyage and its influence on exploration and development of Russian America" accessed 25 September 2005.
  • [2] Rosen, Yereth (5 March 2017), " Archaeologists say they've found the campsite used by survivors of legendary 'doomed' ship". Alaska News Dispatch.
  • Tredrea, John and Eduard Sozaev (2010). Russian Warships in the Age of Sail, 1696-1860: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-058-1.