The Journal of Midshipman Chaplin: A Record of Bering's First Kamchatka Expedition

The Journal of Midshipman Chaplin: A Record of Bering's First Kamchatka Expedition

The Journal of Midshipman Chaplin: A Record of Bering's First Kamchatka Expedition

The Journal of Midshipman Chaplin: A Record of Bering's First Kamchatka Expedition

Excerpt

The logbooks or “journals” of the Holy Archangel Gabriel (usually abbreviated to Holy Gabriel, in Russian: Sviatoi Gavriil) hold a special place among the documents of the First Kamchatka Expedition. They are the only official sources that preserve the history of the expedition in detail. Two logbooks were kept, by assistants to the leader of the expedition, Vitus Bering: Lieutenant Aleksei Chirikov and naval cadet, later midshipman, Piotr Chaplin both made daily or almost daily entries, each in his own volume. Their logbooks were later bound together in a single volume (shown in the adjacent illustration).

From the eighteenth century to the present this volume has been kept in the archives of the Russian navy. It makes up one separate unit in the Russian State Naval Archives in St. Petersburg (RGAVMF), among the papers of the Hydrographic Archives (RGAVMF, fund 913, inventory 1, unit 2).

Entries in the logbook by Chirikov were begun on 23 April 1725 and end abruptly on 9 November 1729. His journal was not signed, but the distinctive handwriting of Chirikov leaves no doubt about its authorship. The logbook by Chaplin starts with the departure from St. Petersburg on 24 January 1725 and continues until his return to the capital on 1 March 1730. It is in Chaplin’s handwriting and signed by him.

For the present publication the logbook of Piotr Chaplin was chosen, since it covers the entire period of the First Kamchatka Expedition, and records it in detail. Besides, Chaplin was usually near the commander of the expedition, carrying out his instructions. He recorded when and where Bering went, and for what purpose, and thus offers the closest view of Bering as the head of the expedition and as a man whose character is still a topic of discussion among historians.

Records in the two journals differ . . .

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