Talk:Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen

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B or B?[edit]

Two articles, one on Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and one on Edward Bransfield, both claim the discovery of Antarctica for their protagonists. The two claims are apparently separated by only two days of real time, but even so, there ought to be some resolution of this question.

A selection of reference works say "almost certainly" Bellingshausen, but the quality of each report is not such that experts are willing to stake their careers on them (the ones not being leaned on by governments, that is :-) - Soviets used Bellingshausen's priority to make territorial claims). As usual, we just need to report the claims, not try to decide it ourselves. It would be useful to cross-link the two articles better, since both hint at a priority dispute, but aren't especially clear about it. Stan 14:36, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

I am concerned that this article violates the NPOV criterion. While Bellingshausen did discover substantial parts of Antarctica, and may have been the first to sight the continent, this article does not make it plain that the priority is disputed and that Bransfield was sent as a result of the discovery of the South Shetland Islands (usually regarded as part of Antarctica) by Smith in February 1819. There is also the partisan statement (which I have corrected) that Bellingshausen discovered the South Shetland Islands, which he most certainly did not, although he visited them.

Incidentally, everyone forgets that Cook, although he did not sight the continent, confidently stated that it existed on the perfectly correct reasoning that the vast icebergs of the southern oceans must originate on a continent. --APRCooper 20:05, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

South Shetland Islands[edit]

The article states that Bellingshausen "discovered" the South Shetland Islands. This is certainly not so, as they were sighted by Capt. William Smith of the brig Williams in February 1819, before Bellingshausen left Portsmouth! The reference for this is the US and Chilean entries in the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica ([1]). They were visited by sealers in 1820. --APRCooper 19:58, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Another source[edit]

Weddell (interested in southward distance) mentions that Bellinghausen said "We continued our cruise to the south-east, sailing between large masses of ice; but, notwithstanding all our efforts, we never could pass the 70° of south latitude, and this only in one place. In all others, we could only advance 69½°." — Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, No. 23, p. 177. I don't know what else might be in Edinburgh Philosophical. (SEWilco 07:33, 28 February 2007 (UTC))

A wide open task[edit]

There is in fact no list of open tasks at WikiProject Antarctica but this page should be high on it. The problems, however, are daunting and complicated, as contributors have noted above.

The first problem is historiographical. That is to say, much of the heat surrounding the priority question arises from the fact that until 1949, 128 years after the voyage was completed, no Russian authors claimed that the Bellingshausen expedition had been the first people to see the mainland of Antarctica. The list of such 'non-claimants' includes Bellingshausen, Lazarev (but see below), and Novosilskii, and in the twentieth century two leading Soviet geographers, Yulii Shokalskii and Lev Berg. Another interesting 'dissenter' was the cetacean biologist Vyacheslav Zemskii, who like Berg refused to comply with the new version of events, namely that Antarctica had been sighted on 16/28 January 1820. Before 1949 the prevailing Russian view had been that the Bellingshausen expedition made several important Antarctic discoveries, including the Alexander I Coast in January 1821, the most southerly land discovered before Ross's Antarctic expedition about twenty years later. Novosilskii and Shokalskii, in particular, emphasized that the expedition taken as a whole had established the existence of Antarctica. But that did not satisfy supporters of the priority claim.
A particularly important 'non-claimant' was the expedition's astronomer Ivan Simonov, who published several accounts of the voyage between 1822 and 1854, some of them in French or German. According to him the expedition saw no land between leaving the South Sandwich Islands in mid-January 1820 and arriving at Port Jackson (Sydney) on 11 April 1820. Simonov even published a scientific article in which he specified that on 16/28 January 1820 the expedition had been on the high seas, as compared with other dates when it had been near land. (His data for the article happen to have been organized into those two categories.)
Another major problem is linguistic. Even people who can read Russian are - or should be - in difficulties here, because Bellingshausen and Lazarev were so themselves. To start with, there seems to have been no single Russian word for "iceberg" in their lifetimes. Bellingshausen generally used "ice island" ("l'dyanyi ostrov") and he had another useful word, "l'dina", for an ice floe. But in order to give some idea of the vastness of the ice fields they encountered, both men once or twice created phrases which combined the notion of ice with the notion of something larger than an island (which as we have seen was reserved for icebergs of all sizes). The second element in those phrases was provided by the adjective "materoi", for which the closest English equivalent is perhaps "main", as in "mainland" and John Donne's famous phrase "a part of the main". But now things get even harder, because the Russian word "materik", which comes from "materoi" not the other way around, can mean "continent" or "mainland" according to context.
To wind this up, and leaving many things unsaid, Bellingshausen used the adjective "materoi" once, in the phrase "southern main land", in order to refer to the hypothetical southern continent which Cook had been sent to look for. And he used the noun "materik" only once, to describe an exchange between himself and Lazarev in which he, Bellingshausen, wanted to make absolutely sure that Peter I Island, discovered at the end of 1820, was in fact an island and not a promontory joined to a larger mainland.
Lazarev, on the other hand, provided some support for the priority school of thought by applying the phrase "main ice" to an "extraordinarily high" ice-field which the expedition caught sight of, only briefly, on 16/28 January 1820. He followed that by applying the phrase "ice-floe mainland" or "ice-floe continent" to the solid ice-fields which had prevented them from getting beyond 70° S for the entire remainder of the voyage. Lazarev's careful phrasing was more about distinguishing permanent ice-fields from icebergs which had calved from them, than it was about claiming to have discovered a conventional continent. But it was not difficult, by ignoring the context and the difference between "icy" and "ice-floe", and by cutting away some phrases so that "ice-floe continent" was brought as close as possible to "16 January", for the priority school to claim that Lazarev's description supported their position.

I did say it was complicated. On some of the simpler points above, Bellingshausen discovered six new islands in the South Shetlands, mainly because he surveyed their southern aspects more thoroughly than Bransfield was able to do. Weddell is not much help to us because there never was a volume 23 in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal. And yes, Cook has often been treated rather badly by people who did not choose to notice that he said himself that "South Sandwich Land" could very well be a group of islands — as Bellingshausen showed later, or that he expressed his firm belief in the existence of land further south than he was able to sail, even adding at one point that he could well have seen it himself without recognizing what it was. But I'm afraid this continues to be one of those topics on which people hear only what they want to hear and read only what they want to read...

-) Nargoon (talk) 12:15, 8 July 2010 (UTC)


wouldnt he be Prussian? I mean there is no way he was Russian, just because he was born in an area which at that time belonged to the Russian Empire. Norum 08:58, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

The article does not claim he was Russian. --Jaan Pärn (talk) 10:07, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

Facts manipulation[edit]

Way to go, guys!

Instead of admitting that Bellingshausen was a Russian explorer of Baltic-German descent, you call him a "Baltic German!" Read the first paragraph of this article, you will only have a vague idea that he was actually first and foremost a Russian navy officer.

How about Joseph Stalin, he is not a Soviet dictator anymore, obviously he must be mentioned as "a Georgian politician in the head of the Soviet Union"? Hitler also should not be called a German dictator, he is "an Austrian politician who was the head of the Third Reich in 1933-1945"? And Martin Luther King was obviously not an American, but instead should be called a whatever-African-country his ancestors came from.

Baltic Germans constituted a large portion of the Russian Navy and military officers. In WWI, thousands of them died fighting Germany. For each of them, calling them "Germans" instead of "Russian officers" would be a disgrace, they would probably try to kill you in a duel for that. But today's generation of Wikipedia writers has no idea of such things as honour and valour. Wikipedia is turning more and more into a collection of trivia and politically biased nonsense, thanks to articles like this. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:39, 17 April 2016 (UTC)