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'^ ,^ DIANA
Published by Field Museum of Natural History
V. S. KHROMCHENKO'S COASTAL EXPLORATIONS
IN SOUTHWESTERN ALASKA, 1822
Edited with an introduction by
JAMES W. VANSTONE
DAVID H. KRAUS
NOVEMBER 23, 1973
A Continuation of the
FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
V. S. KHROMCHENKO'S COASTAL EXPLORATIONS
IN SOUTHWESTERN ALASKA, 1822
Published by Field Museum of Natural History
V. S. KHROMCHENKO'S COASTAL EXPLORATIONS
IN SOUTHWESTERN ALASKA, 1822
Edited with an introduction by
JAMES W. VANSTONE
Curator, North American Archaeology and Ethnology
Chairman, Department of Anthropology
Field Museum of Natural History
DAVID H. KRAUS
Slavic and East European Division
The Library of Congress
NOVEMBER 23, 1973
Patricia M. Williams
Managing Editor, Scientific Publications
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-86815
US ISSN 0071-4739
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY FIELD MUSEUM PRESS
List of Illustrations v
Notes for the Introduction 35
References for the Introduction 37
Preface to the Translation 40
Excerpts from the Journal of V.S. Khromchenko on his Voyage of 1822 . . 42
Notes for the Translation 86
References for the Translation 94
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1. Map of the north Pacific Ocean 5
2. Map of southwestern Alaska 9
3. Map of the Norton Sound and Seward Peninsula region 17
4. Glazunov's map of southwestern Alaska 27
5. Map of Nunivak Island 59
Few areas of North America have received more literary at-
tention from travellers and tourists than has Alaska. During the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when a trip north was
an exciting adventure, it seemed that virtually everyone making
an excursion through the Inside Passage or heading toward the gold
fields of the interior wrote a book about his experiences. In addition
to sharing their experiences with armchair travellers, many of these
authors also attempted to give historical perspective to their writ-
ings by including brief but invariably superficial accounts of Russian
exploration in the North Pacific in the years preceding the purchase
of Alaska by the United States in 1867. Most of these accounts are
little more than rewritings of the data in H. H. Bancroft's History
of Alaska, published in 1886 as one part of the author's multi-vol-
umed history of the American West. Bancroft's uneven work, the
first attempt to describe Alaska's eventful past in detail, is still the
most comprehensive history of what is now the forty-ninth state.
Although in recent years highly competent professional histor-
ians have centered their research on various aspects of the history
of Alaskan exploration, relatively little attention has been focused
on Russian contributions. There is still no thorough, well-docu-
mented history in English of Russia's penetration into the Pacific
northwest. Belatedly, however, historians and social scientists
realize the significance of this era in the expansion of the North Am-
erican frontier. It is clear that although the scientific contributions
of Russian explorers may have been less notable than those of their
British and American counterparts, important and significant ob-
servations were made on the geography, native peoples, and resources
of the country.
One of the factors inhibiting the study of Russian exploration
has, of course, been the Russian language in which, until recently,
few American northern specialists in any field have been competent.
It is not, however, a matter of language alone. Information on many
of the most important voyages and travels exists only in archival
sources or in esoteric Russian publications of the late eighteenth and
2 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
early nineteenth centuries which are available in only a handful of
libraries in this country. Even the published accounts often exist
only in brief and highly condensed form. Thus while it has been
relatively easy to become informed concerning the broad outlines of
Russian exploration, the details have frequently been very elusive
This study is concerned with Russia's penetration into south-
western Alaska, an area peripheral to the Aleutian Islands and pan-
handle archipelago where most of her exploration and economic ex-
ploitation took place. The explorations of Vasiliy Stepanovich
Khromchenko, although not among the more spectacular in the
history of northern voyages of discovery, were instrumental in open-
ing this new area to the fur trade and they have never been the sub-
ject of detailed treatment in any language. The journals which he
and his second-in-command, Adolph Karlovich Etolin, kept during
their first voyage in 1821 have never been published and are known
primarily through the writings of contemporary historians. Khrom-
chenko's journal of 1822, which is the subject of this study, was
published only as excerpts in consecutive issues of the Russian pe-
riodical, Severnyy Arkhiv.
The explorations of Khromchenko and Etolin in 1821 are de-
scribed in the introduction as is the related voyage of Mikhail
Nikolaevich Vasilev and Gleb Semenovich Shishmarev which took
place at approximately the same time. Detailed consideration is
given to the activities of Vasilev and Shishmarev because they cov-
ered some of the same areas explored by Khromchenko and Etolin,
and their journals were never published. The accomplishments of
all four explorers deserve to be known to a wider audience.
My purpose in this study is not only to reproduce Khromchenko's
1822 journal in the only version that is available, but to place his
achievements, and the related achievements of others, in the frame-
work of the development of the fur trade and the expansion of Rus-
sian influence in Alaska. In this manner, I hope to call attention to
important and generally neglected events in the history of Russian
Russian proper names and other words in the introduction and
in Khromchenko's journal have been transliterated according to a
modified form of the Library of Congress system. The reader should
remember that all dates are according to the Georgian calendar
which was 12 days behind the Julian calendar in the nineteenth
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 3
For critical comments and helpful suggestions during the prepa-
ration of this study, I am grateful to Dorothy Jean Ray. Her thor-
ough knowledge of historical developments in the Norton Sound
region has helped me to avoid a number of embarrassing errors. I
also wish to express my thanks to Dr. Michael Krauss of the Uni-
versity of Alaska who helped me to formulate my interpretive com-
ments concerning the Eskimo vocabularies collected by Khrom-
The translation of Khromchenko's journal was undertaken with
financial support from the James R. Getz Fund of Field Museum of
Natural History, David H. Kraus of the Library of Congress, trans-
lator of the journal and some of the material used in the introduction,
also performed many editorial services. His interest and enthusiasm
are much appreciated. Dr. Henry N. Michael of Temple University
helped to resolve certain problems of terminology which had puzzled
both the translator and the editor. Valuable assistance in obtaining
biographical information on Khromchenko and Etolin was provided
by Dr. Erna V. Siebert of the Institute of Ethnography in Leningrad
and Dr. Svetlana G. Fedorova of the same institution in Moscow.
Finally, a very special debt of gratitude is due my wife, Dr. Mary
Helms VanStone, who read the manuscript critically and offered her
support and encouragement at every stage of its preparation.
Before the end of the sixteenth century, Russian fur traders had
crossed the Urals, gradually extended their operations eastward
across northern Asia, and established themselves on the shores of
the Bering Sea. After reaching salt water, it was only natural that
these Cossack adventurers would extend their explorations along the
coast. By the early eighteenth century, rumors began to circulate
among these intrepid travellers and traders concerning a continent
said to lie to the east.
In the course of time, these rumors reached St. Petersburg where
Tsar Peter the Great was quick to realize their importance. He or-
dered the organization of an expedition which was directed to extend
the explorations of the Cossack navigators and to provide proof of
the separation of Asia and America. The command of this expedi-
tion was given to Vitus Bering, a Dane and fleet captain in the Rus-
sian navy. After crossing Siberia, Bering built two small vessels at
Okhotsk and, in July of 1728, sailed northward along the coast of
Siberia as far as East Cape. Having passed through the strait which
today bears his name, Bering returned to Okhotsk without having
sighted the American continent. He did, however, report the exist-
ence of St. Lawrence Island.
Although Bering believed that he had definitely established the
separation of Asia and North America, his evidence was so meager
that most geographers refused to accept it. In fact, it was not until
the third voyage of Captain James Cook a half century later that
convincing proof of separation was obtained.
The interest aroused by Bering's first voyage led to the organiza-
tion of a second expedition which, because of its size and the diffi-
culties of travel, was six years in crossing Siberia. Finally, in June
of 1741, this expedition sailed from Kamchatka in two vessels com-
manded by Bering and Aleksey Chirikov. The ships soon separated
and on July 18 Bering sighted the American coast in the vicinity
of Mt. St. Elias; a few days later a landing was made on Kayak Is-
land. Sailing southwest, the party sighted the Shumagin Islands
6 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
and continued westward along the Aleutian chain. Scurvy broke
out and the ship was eventually wrecked on Bering Island in the
Commander group off the coast of Kamchatka. Many died during
the winter, including Bering. The next summer the survivors built
a small vessel from the wreckage and returned to Kamchatka.
After becoming separated from Bering, Chirikov sailed eastward
and on July 15 sighted the continent near Cross Sound. An attempt
to land resulted in the loss of two boats and the death of nearly a
third of his crew at the hands of the Tlingit Indians. Chirikov hast-
ily returned to Kamchatka, sighting a few of the Aleutian Islands
during his voyage.^
Following Bering's explorations and discoveries, Russian fur
hunters began to exploit those areas of the north Pacific where fabu-
lous riches in furs had been reported. These hardy Siberians reached
the Commander Islands within two years after the return of Bering's
party. Subsequently, in crude, ill-equipped, and poorly provisioned
ships manned by crews who knew little of seamanship, these roving
hunters and traders succeeded in pushing their way eastward along
the Aleutian chain to the mainland of Alaska.-
Some of these fur hunters reached Kodiak Island as early as 1762
and by that time it was already apparent that foxes, sea otters, and
other furbearers were becoming scarce in the Aleutians. Because
the hunting and trading voyages were growing less profitable, it was
necessary to look for new areas to exploit toward the northeast. Up
to this time, fur gathering had been in the hands of individual en-
trepreneurs or a few small companies. However, in 1781, a well-
organized company of eastern Siberian merchants was formed to
exploit the American fur trade. The leader of this new organization
was Grigoriy Ivanovich Shelikov, an Irkutsk merchant who, in 1783,
supervised the establishment of a small colony at Three Saints Bay
near the southwestern end of Kodiak Island. From there the Sheli-
kov Company extended its trapping and trading operations to the
neighboring islands and mainland.
In 1792 Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov was appointed chief
director of the company's American interests, a post which he held
for 25 years. Virtually alone he developed the company to the point
where it was able to overcome its rivals for control of the fur trade
and become established, under the name of the Russian-American
Company, as a state monopoly by imperial decree in 1799.^
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 7
By the time Baranov was relieved of his duties in 1818, Russia's
North American domain extended from the Aleutian Islands down
the coast of southeastern Alaska to Sitka. He moved his headquart-
ers from Kodiak Island to Sitka in 1800 and this small settlement
became the capital of Russian Alaska. Although the Russians were
familiar with the coastal areas in this picturesque region of numerous
islands and deep bays, virtually nothing was known of coastal or
interior regions to the north. Baranov was anxious to obtain more
information concerning his extensive domain, but continual preoc-
cupation with organizational problems, British and American compe-
tition, and difficulties with the Indians and Aleuts left little time for
exploration. Nevertheless, early in the nineteenth century, as the
number of fur-bearing animals continued to decline in the tradition-
ally exploited areas, the Russian- American Company was forced to
turn its attention to the vast area of southwestern Alaska north of
the Alaska Peninsula. This was an unknown region in which it was
hoped that new profits could be reaped through trade with the Es-
kimo inhabitants for beaver pelts. It was undoubtedly also true that
in response to pressures exerted by other nations conducting ex-
plorations in northern waters, the Russians felt compelled to extend
their influence into areas of the country with which they had not
been traditionally associated.
In 1818, an expedition was dispatched to explore the region to
the north of Bristol Bay. This party, under the direction of Petr
Korsakovskiy, consisted of Fedor Kolmakov, Petr Gorokhov, Gav-
ril Patyukov, Andrey Klimovskiy, and 20 Aleuts. The expedition
was intended to open new areas to the fur trade, but also hoped to
investigate rumors that white men, presumably descendants of
earlier Russian explorers, were living on the "Kheuveren" River,
believed to be located somewhere on Seward Peninsula.^
Korsakovskiy proceeded from Kodiak Island across Shelikof
Strait and the Alaska Peninsula to Bristol Bay in the spring of 1818.
From there Kolmakov led a detachment west to Cape Newenham by
way of Kvichak and Nushagak bays, the lower reaches of the To-
giak River, and Hagemeister Island. This trip required 41 days,
the return journey to the Eskimo village of Ekuk at the mouth of
the Nushagak River being made in mid-July. Kolmakov's party
were almost certainly the first Russians to travel in this area.
Early in August, Korsakovskiy, leaving Kolmakov and a few
others at the mouth of the Nushagak, led a detachment which as-
cended the Kvichak River to Iliamna Lake, Lake Clark, and the
8 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
upper reaches of the Mulchatna River, a Nushagak tributary. On
Iliamna Lake he met Eremy Rodionov, a local trader, who offered
to lead a small group north to find the vaguely located "Kheuveren"
River. The route followed by Rodionov and his party is uncertain,
but they apparently reached the Kuskokwim River near the mouth
of the Holitna and proceeded downstream to the vicinity of the
present day village of Kalskag. By early September, the party had
returned to the upper Mulchatna and from there Korsakovskiy and
his men returned to Kodiak Island by way of Iliamna Lake and lower
Korsakovskiy's explorations of Iliamna Lake and Lake Clark
were not the first European penetration of the interior west of Cook
Inlet, Russian traders having operated in this area since the days
when the Shelikov Company was competing with other trading com-
panies for control of the fur trade in the Inlet. The Tanaina Indians,
occupants of this region, were thoroughly familiar with Russian
trade goods long before the arrival of the Korsakovskiy party.
In the summer of 1819, Korsakovskiy led another exploring party
to Bristol Bay, this time by way of Iliamna Lake and the Kvichak
River. From there the expedition proceeded to the mouth of the
Togiak River and Hagemeister Island where the Russian-American
Company cutter Constantine was waiting with supplies brought by
sea from Kodiak. An exploration of the Kuskokwim River was
planned and the supplies were for that purpose.
It was late in the summer when Korsakovskiy approached the
Kuskokwim and, perhaps awed by the size of Kuskokwim Bay into
which drains the second longest river in Alaska, he proceeded no
further than Goodnews Bay. The Eskimos he met advised against
an attempt to ascend the river, maintaining that many hardships
would be encountered and that the Russians would have difficulty
in obtaining food. So the expedition turned back, but not before
learning from the Eskimos of the existence of a large island to the
north and west between the mouths of the Kuskokwim and Yukon
rivers. This was Nunivak Island and it figures prominently in the
later explorations of Khromchenko. Korsakovskiy may even have
heard of the mighty Yukon River, not to be seen by Russians until
During Korsakovskiy's explorations in 1818, a detachment under
Fedor Kolmakov had remained at the mouth of the Nushagak River
while the rest of the expedition proceeded inland to Lake Clark and
10 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
the Mulchatna. Kolmakov was to examine the area at the Nush-
agak's mouth as a possible location for a redoubt, and in the sum-
mer of 1819 a post was constructed. Chosen as the site for the first
Russian-American Company establishment north of the Alaska
Peninsula was a high bluff on the east bank of Nushagak Bay about
8 miles below the actual mouth of the river. The new redoubt was
named Aleksandrovskiy, perhaps in honor of Tsar Aleksandr I, and
Kolmakov, an energetic trader, rapidly established trade relations
with the Aglegmiut Eskimos living in the vicinity of the post. Being
frequently at war with their neighbors, the Kiatagmiut Eskimos of
the Nushagak River, they were glad to place themselves under the
protection of the Russians. Since the Aglegmiut were already
somewhat familiar with Russian trade goods, it delighted them to
be so close to an impressive new source of supply.
So ended the first Russian explorations in southwestern Alaska.
As a result, the company learned something about the interior re-
gions. Beaver were plentiful, the Eskimos friendly, and, most im-
portant of all, the region was apparently drained by a number of
navigable rivers which would make penetration of the interior rela-
tively easy. At the same time, residents of the interior had easy
access to the coast. Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt seemed ideally situ-
ated to attract Eskimos with furs and to serve as a point of departure
for explorations into the interior. This was indeed the case. Within
ten years, such explorations were to take place virtually every sum-
mer, and within 25 years, all of southwestern Alaska would be opened
to the fur trade.
The Russian-American Company was, of course, primarily in-
terested in the fur trade and all its explorations were designed to
find ways in which to increase that trade. But the company was
also a state monopoly and could, at times, serve as an arm of Rus-
sian imperialism. Reacting to pressures from two other imperialist
powers of the time, Great Britain and the United States, Russia felt
insecure in its knowledge of and hold on the huge section of the
North American continent which it claimed.
The Imperial Government watched with interest as the Russian-
American Company expanded its activities into southwestern Alaska.
A decision was made to sponsor some coastal explorations which
would not only be of assistance to the company, but would, hope-
fully, rival those of Cook and Vancouver in their contributions to
geographical knowledge. At the same time, the rest of the world
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 11
would see that Russia was interested in and actively investigating
all of Alaska, not just the Aleutian chain and the panhandle archi-
pelago. Therefore, in 1819, by order of Tsar Aleksandr I, an expe-
dition under the command of Captain-Lieutenant M. N. Vasilev
was dispatched to describe and survey the northern coasts of Alaska
and at the same time to look for the fabled Northwest Passage. The
journals presumably kept by Vasilev and other members of the ex-
pedition were never published in full, although brief excerpts ap-
peared in Russian and German periodicals. The contemporary
historian, Vasiliy N. Berkh (1823a) also discussed Vasilev's explora-
tions in the second volume of his history of northern discoveries.
On June 4, 1819, Captain Vasilev set sail from Kronstadt on the
Gulf of Finland in two naval sloops, the Otkrytie (Discovery) and
the Blagonamerennyy (Good Intent). The leader of the expedition
was aboard the former while the latter was under the command of
Captain-Lieutenant G. S. Shishmarev. Vasilev sailed directly to
Kamchatka while Shishmarev went to Unalaska in the hopes of being
able to procure an interpreter who would be useful when the expe-
dition met northern coastal Eskimos. From there he sailed to St.
Lawrence Island and then to Kotzebue Sound where Vasilev joined
him on July 16, 1820.
Both vessels departed from Kotzebue Sound two days later and
sailed northward along the Alaskan coast with the intention of sur-
veying it in detail. Fog and ice hampered their surveys, however,
and the two vessels were able to proceed only as far as 71°06' north
latitude, 35 miles north of Icy Cape. This was a very respectable
achievement nonetheless, as it represents approximately the same
latitude reached by Captain Cook in 1778 and was the most northern
penetration of Alaskan coastal waters by the Russians up to that
time. Vasilev gives no indication that he had any direct contact
with the Eskimo inhabitants of these northern regions. The ships
do not seem to have landed at any point between Kotzebue Sound
and their farthest north and, because of fog and bad weather, may
have been out of sight of land at least part of the time.
Proceeding south from the vicinity of Icy Cape, the two ships fol-
lowed the coast to Cape Prince of Wales and then crossed the Bering
Strait to East Cape and the Gulf of Anadyr on the Siberian coast.
From there the expedition sailed toward St. Lawrence Island where
Vasilev left Captain Shishmarev to make surveys while he headed for
Unalaska by way of the Pribilof Islands.
12 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Like Captain Cook before them, the Russian navigators encount-
ered difficulties with the moving pack ice as they attempted to sur-
vey close to shore along the arctic coast. Vasilev realized that the
type of vessel needed for such surveys was a small boat of light sail
that could hold close to the coast and take advantage of the open
water between the shore and the pack ice. In fact, it was in just
such a vessel that members of William Beechey's expedition reached
Point Barrow, the first Europeans to do so, in 1826 (Beechey, 1831,
chs. XI-XII). Since the Russian expedition carried with it the com-
ponents for making a small boat, Vasilev decided to sail from Un-
alaska to Sitka where it could conveniently be assembled. Having
left a member of his crew to carry out this task, he sailed from Sitka
on October 25 to spend the winter in southern latitudes.
Shishmarev and Vasilev spent the winter in northern California
and in the Hawaiian Islands. By early June, 1821, however, both
the Otkrytie and the Blagonamerennyy were at Unalaska ready for
the second season of surveys. Vasilev had stopped at Sitka in mid-
May to secure supplies, obtain interpreters, and take on board the
newly constructed small boat.
Leaving Vasilev and Shishmarev for the moment as they prepare
for their second season along the Alaska coast, we must turn our
attention once again to the activities of the Russian- American Com-
pany. By this time the general manager, Matvey Ivanovich Mur-
avev, had examined the journals and reports of Korsakovskiy's
expeditions. What he learned impressed him and he decided that
the company should support further explorations in the same area.
The brig Golovnin and the cutter Baranov were to be employed for
this purpose with the former commanded by the leader of the ex-
pedition, V. S. Khromchenko, and the latter by A. K. Etolin.
Khromchenko's explorations were conceived on a much smaller scale
than those of Vasilev. Not only was the area to be covered much
more limited, but the advancing of geographical knowledge was dis-
tinctly subordinate to the necessity of obtaining information about
the Eskimo inhabitants that would be useful to the company in
planning the expansion of the fur trade. It can be assumed also that
few political implications were attached to this expedition since at
least part of the area had already been explored by the Russians.
However, since Korsakovskiy had not proceeded beyond Goodnews
Bay, but had brought back interesting information concerning the
country to the north, Muravev was anxious for Khromchenko and
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 13
Etolin to extend the explorations of the earlier party, thereby laying
the groundwork for future trade in the new areas.
Since V. S. Khromchenko is the major figure in the explorations
that most concern us in this study, it is worthwhile taking a brief
look at his professional career. Little is known concerning the navi-
gator's early life, but his name suggests that he was of Ukrainian ex-
traction. In 1806 he entered navigator's school and was promoted
to navigator's assistant, a non-commissioned rank, on July 21, 1815.
His first assignment was on the brig Rurik under the command of
Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue, an early Russian round-the-world
voyager who made important discoveries in the Bering Sea region
(Kotzebue, 1821). While a member of this expedition, on July 1,
1817, Khromchenko was promoted to navigator 14th class, and on
the expedition's return to Kronstadt two years later, to warrant
Like other naval officers of the time, Khromchenko saw an op-
portunity for more interesting duty and rapid promotion through
service with the Russian- American Company, to which he trans-
ferred in 1820. This transfer enabled him to receive his first com-
mand and, in 1821 and 1822, in the brig Golovnin, he carried out the
explorations which are the subject of this study. Following these
expeditions, Khromchenko commanded company ships until at least
1833, during which time he took part in two round-the-world voy-
ages and was rewarded and promoted to captain-lieutenant for pro-
viding the Imperial Botanical Gardens with more than 1,000 rare
plants from Brazil. Beginning in 1834, Khromchenko appears to
have returned to service with the Imperial Navy and was stationed
in the Baltic Sea between 1835 and 1840. On January 13, 1843 he
retired from the service with the rank of second captain and died in
A. K, Etolin, although subordinate to Khromchenko on the voy-
ages in 1821 and 1822, ultimately played a much larger role in the
history of Russian America than did his superior officer. Of Finnish
nationality, he first came to Alaska as a volunteer seaman on the
sloop Kamchatka which was on a round-the-world voyage under the
command of one of the greatest Russian navigators, Vasiliy Mikhail-
ovich Golovnin. At Sitka Etolin entered the service of the Russian-
American Company. Between 1819 and 1824^he commanded com-
pany ships which, in addition to the explorations with Khromchenko,
made voyages to California and the Hawaiian Islands. Additional
commands followed, during which Etolin voyaged throughout the
14 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Pacific Ocean as far north as St. Lawrence Island and south to the
port of Valparaiso, Chile. For a while, in 1828, he was based in a
settlement of traders on an island in the Kuriles.
During his career, Etolin was out of the company's service at
least twice, once in 1825 when he returned to Kronstadt, and again
in 1837 when he was promoted to captain-lieutenant and lived in St.
Petersburg. It was there that his fortunes began to rise. He had
remained a naval officer and from 1841 to 1845, as a first captain, he
served as general manager of the Russian- American Company, the
third in a line of naval officers to hold the company's highest posi-
tion in Alaska. In 1847 Etolin retired from the navy with the rank
of rear-admiral. He died in 1876.
The company's first sea explorations in southwestern Alaska be-
gan on May 3, 1821 when Etolin sailed from Sitka. ^ He reached
Hagemeister Island on the 30th and three days later dropped an-
chor at the mouth of the Nushagak River. After completing various
assignments in that area, he put to sea on June 29 for Goodnews Bay
where he met Khromchenko in the Golovnin, the latter having left
Sitka on May 27. One of the assignments given to the expedition
related to a rumor that Russians were living somewhere on Seward
Peninsula. The Korsakovskiy expedition in 1818 was supposed to
have investigated this rumor, as previously noted, but apparently
they were not successful in obtaining the kind of information that
satisfied the company. At the time there was considerable specula-
tion about the identity of these Russians, if in fact they did exist.
Some believed they would turn out to be descendants of survivors of
the Deshnev expedition which may have passed through Bering
Strait in 1648 and was, in the 1820's, little known (Berkh, 1823b). «
Khromchenko and Etolin hoped to meet the Eskimos who had
described such people to Korsakovskiy, and after talking with some
residents of the Goodnews Bay area for several hours, were convinced
that the earlier explorer had misunderstood his informants.
Having obtained this information and completed their surveys
in the Goodnews Bay vicinity, both vessels put to sea on July 12
but became separated the following day during a heavy fog. They
did not meet again until the end of the expedition.
While Etolin was in Bristol Bay and Khromchenko was making
his way toward Goodnews Bay, Vasilev and Shishmarev were at Una-
laska in early June making plans for their second season of explora-
tion in northern waters. Shishmarev was directed to carry out sur-
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 15
veys along the northeast coast of Asia, while Vasilev, with the help
of the newly-constructed ship's boat, described the Alaskan coast be-
tween Bristol Bay and Norton Sound. Vasilev also planned to
proceed northward in the Otkrytie in a second attempt to find the
Northwest Passage. On June 27 the Blagonamerennyy set its course
for the shores of Asia, while Vasilev sailed to the Pribilofs and, hav-
ing verified the geographic position of these islands, proceeded to
At Cape Newenham, Vasilev appointed a member of his crew,
Lieutenant A.P. Avinov, commander of the ship's boat and in-
structed him to describe the Alaskan coast between capes Newenham
and Darby and then rejoin the Otkrytie at Stuart Island on July 20.
If his surveys had not been completed by this date, Avinov was to
continue until August 15 at which time, if he did not meet his com-
mander in Norton Sound, he was to winter either at Unalaska or in
Petropavlovsk harbour on the coast of Kamchatka.
The ship's boat and the Otkrytie separated on July 6 and Vasilev
headed for Cape Stephens. On the 11th he sighted an island which
was not marked on his maps. On going ashore, probably at some
point along the northwest coast, he learned that the island was called
Nunivak and was not far from the Alaska mainland. The Eskimos
he met indicated that they had not previously been in direct contact
with Europeans. Vasilev, after naming the island Otkrytie, appar-
ently made no attempt to survey it and departed the following day
for Norton Sound. His failure to do any surveying is somewhat sur-
prising since he must have realized the importance of his discovery.
He may also have been aware that an island had been reported in
this general area by the Korsakovskiy expedition in 1819. Vasilev's
route from Nunivak to Norton Sound would presumably have taken
him around the western tip of the island and provided the oppor-
tunity for surveying many miles of coastline. Perhaps he believed
that Avinov in the ship's boat could be counted on to perform this
work. In any event, Vasilev arrived at Cape Darby on the 19th and
when the ship's boat failed to appear on the 20th, he sailed south-
While Vasilev was sailing toward Norton Sound, Etolin in the
Baranov was enroute to the mouth of the Kuskokwim River which
he reached on July 17. There the party met a large number of Eski-
mos who claimed they had no previous contact with Europeans. It
seems virtually certain, however, that these people had at least some
previous knowledge concerning the Russians, if only because of the
16 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
explorations of the Korsakovskiy party in the general area two years
Etolin spent about six days in Kuskokwim Bay making observa-
tions and describing the coastline. While gathering information
from the local Eskimos, he learned of the existence of Nunivak Is-
land which was previously unknown to him. Leaving Kuskokwim
Bay on July 23, the Baranov sailed to the northwest and on the 28th,
Etolin sighted what he presumed to be the island. He anchored off
shore, apparently in the vicinity of Cape Mendenhall, and some Es-
kimos came on board. From them he learned that he was, indeed,
off the coast of Nunivak. The following day the coast of the Alaska
mainland was visible at a distance of 25 miles.
Etolin intended to sail through the strait which today bears his
name, but was prevented from doing so by an unfavorable wind. He
named the strait after Captain James Cook and then bore away to
the northeast with the intention of circumnavigating the island.
Again unfavorable winds intervened and he was prevented from ac-
complishing this goal. Nevertheless, he was successful in describing
some of the island and in determining its extent from east to west.
The Baranov then headed north to Norton Bay where Etolin hoped
to meet Khromchenko in the Golovnin.
Khromchenko, meanwhile, after becoming separated from the
Baranov on July 13, proceeded north and sighted the coast of Nuni-
vak Island on July 16 and 17. However, since the weather was
foggy, he decided to postpone further explorations in that area and
head straight for Norton Sound.
On the 22nd he entered Norton Bay and became the first Euro-
pean to visit Golovnin Bay. According to contemporary historian
V. N. Berkh (1823a, p. 55), Khromchenko originally named it Mur-
avev Bay after the general manager of the Russian-American Com-
pany. The latter persuaded him to change the name to Golovnin
after the famous circumnavigator with whom the general manager
had served on a round-the-world voyage. Khromchenko stayed in
this newly discovered bay only briefly and then surveyed the coast-
line of Norton Sound to Cape Stephens after which he returned to
Golovnin Bay on the 27th to secure water and firewood. During
this second visit, the weather was much improved and he was able
to survey a large part of the bay's shoreline including the mouth of
the Fish River.
"While riding at anchor in Golovnin Bay and during his extensive
surveys of its coastline, Khromchenko had considerable contact
18 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
with the Eskimo population of the area. They provided him with
information concerning the geography of the region, but he erron-
eously concluded that in some manner the bay connected with Shish-
maref Inlet. The information he obtained increased his interest in
the interior of Seward Peninsula and he was to pay particular at-
tention to this area on his second voyage the following year.
Khromchenko left Norton Sound on August 10 and although
Etolin in the Baranov arrived at Stuart Island on the 6th, the men
he sent ashore to seek information concerning the whereabouts of
the Golovnin could learn nothing. The Barayiov then headed south,
and on the 11th Etolin sighted an extensive headland. Believing
himself to have been the first European to see this coast, he named it
Cape Rumyantsev after Count Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev, a
distinguished patron of Russian exploration. Rumyantsev had,
from his personal resources, given financial support to Kotzebue's
explorations aboard the Rurik in 1815-1819. The name of this cape
appears on modern maps as Romanzof.
Unknown to him, Etolin was not the first European to visit this
coast and describe the prominent cape. On July 4, 23 days before
Etolin, Shishmarev in the sloop Blagoyiamerennyy had also sighted
this headland. He had sailed from Unalaska on June 27 and hoped
to explore further in this region but was prevented from doing so by
the shallow water that is characteristic of much of the shoreline. He
then proceeded to St. Lawrence Island, described its northern coast,
and collected information on the Eskimo inhabitants. From there
he sailed to the Gulf of Anadyr and, following his instructions from
Vasilev, surveyed the coast and compiled ethnographic information
on the Chukchis.
Shishmarev continued his surveys of the Asiatic coast until July
22, but his work was hampered considerably by ice and bad weather.
He then sailed north and reached 70° 12' N latitude on August 1
when he sighted Cape Serdtse Kamen. A combination of ice, con-
trary winds, and bad weather caused him to abandon his northern
explorations and to sail into Mechigmen Gulf for provisions. On
August 15 Shishmarev headed once again for St. Lawrence Island.
Here he surveyed the northern coast of the island before proceeding
to St. Matthew Island and then Petropavlovsk which was reached
on September 21.
Following his sighting of Cape Romanzof on August 1, Etolin
in the Baranov continued southward, passed Cape Vancouver, and
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 19
two hours later sighted the northern coast of Nunivak Island to-
gether with the strait which separates it from the mainland. He
wished to stay close to the coast in order to conduct surveys, but
heavy winds kept forcing him away from it. On the 12th he an-
chored off the western tip of the island and a shore party was able
to obtain some information from the inhabitants.
Being unable to describe the whole of Nunivak Island, Etolin
set sail for Unalaska and, plagued again by bad weather, was not
able to enter the harbor until September 26. Two days later, after
taking on wood and water, he departed for Sitka and reached that
port on October 13, thus completing his part of the voyage.
We have already noted that Khromchenko left Norton Bay on
August 10. He too sighted Cape Romanzof, but bad weather pre-
vented him from making extensive surveys of the coast in this re-
gion. He then sailed for Nunivak Island, apparently with the in-
tention of carrying out some of the surveys that he had not attempted
earlier. Again the weather was bad, however, and Khromchenko
may have wished that he had taken advantage of the earlier op-
portunity. No landing was made, but settlements were noted and
people seen gathered in groups on the beach preparing to come out
to meet the ship. But continuing contrary winds prevented them
from doing so. The Golovnin then proceeded to St. George Island,
arriving on the 17th, and to Unalaska on the following day. He
left Unalaska on the 24th and reached Sitka on September 7, ap-
proximately five weeks before Etolin.
We must now discuss the activities of Captain Vasilev in the
Otkrytie as he worked his way into northern latitudes in hopes of
locating the Northwest Passage. Having departed from Norton Bay
on July 20, he proceeded north and approached Cape Lisburne on
the 31st. Shortly thereafter, the ship encountered fog and ice which
prevented a close approach to the shore. Progress northward was
still possible, however, and on August 3, latitude 70°40' N was
reached. The following day Vasilev sighted Icy Cape but extensive
surveys were impossible because of the many ice floes which did some
minor damage to the ship. Cape Lisburne was sighted on the 9th
and on that day Vasilev abandoned his second attempt to conduct
surveys in the Arctic Ocean and proceeded south, arriving at Cape
Darby on the 13th. Like Captain Cook and others before and after
him, the Russian navigator learned that progress northward in a
large sailing vessel was virtually impossible much beyond latitude 70°.
20 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
At Cape Darby Vasilev attempted unsuccessfully to learn the
whereabouts of Lieutenant Avinov and the ship's boat. The Otkrytie
then went on to Stuart Island where the inhabitants reported that
they had never before seen Europeans although Etolin had visited
the island earlier in the same month. It is interesting to note that
while on the island, members of Vasilev's party learned of the exist-
ence of the Yukon River which was not seen by the Russians until
Andrey Glazunov's explorations in 1833-34 (VanStone, 1959). Still
lacking information concerning the whereabouts of Lieutenant Avi-
nov, Vasilev sailed to Petropavlovsk, arriving on September 8 to
find that the lieutenant had been there since August 19.
Lieutenant Avinov had left Bristol Bay on July 6 and sailed in
the direction of Cape Newenham. Heavy seas forced him into Hag-
emeister Strait on the 9th and during the next two days, he described
the coast between Cape Newenham and Goodnews Bay. On July
13, the lieutenant left Goodnews Bay with the intention of contin-
uing his surveys to the north. He kept encountering extensive tidal
flats, however, and obviously possessed none of the skills necessary
to navigate in such waters. The small ship's boat had a draft of 4
ft. and the lieutenant frequently ran aground or was stranded at low
tide. He also experienced difficulty in keeping the boat headed into
the wind. In addition, the weather was continually stormy and the
crew began to show signs of scurvy. So the plans for coastal explora-
tions to the north, for which the ship's boat had been constructed
and for which it was probably well-suited, were abandoned. Avinov
decided to sail to Petropavlovsk where he arrived on August 19.'^
Thus ended the voyage of Vasilev and Shishmarev, and the first
attempt by the Russians to explore the northern coastal waters of
their North American domain. Just 17 years later, in 1838, a party
led by their countryman, Aleksandr Filippovich Kashevarov, travel-
ing in Eskimo skin boats, reached a point 30 miles east of Point Bar-
row (Kashevarov, 1845). If Vasilev had managed to use his ship's
boat rather than the Otkrytie in northern waters, this remarkable
achievement might have been his. Be that as it may, in mid-October
both the Otkrytie and the Blagonamerennyy set out on the return
voyage and in nine months arrived safely at Kronstadt.
In evaluating the results achieved by these two expeditions, it
is well to keep in mind that the explorations of Vasilev and Shish-
marev were sponsored by the Imperial Navy, while those of Khrom-
chenko and Etolin were the undertakings of a commercial enterprise,
the Russian-American Company. Under these circumstances, it
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 21
might be expected that more significant contributions to geographical
knowledge would come from the former, while the work of the latter
would be oriented toward establishing and improving the fur trade.
It is doubtless true that the instructions given to Khromchenko and
Etolin stressed the necessity of laying a foundation for successful
trade relations. But it is also true that most of North America was
explored by individuals or groups whose primary interests were
economic. So it should come as no surprise to learn that this expe-
dition also provided much useful geographical data on places until
then practically unknown.
From the standpoint of geographical discovery, in fact, the ex-
plorations of Khromchenko and Etolin in 1821 stand out as a far
more successful undertaking than the longer, more ambitious expe-
dition sent out by the Imperial Navy. Although many factors were
doubtless involved, it is tempting to attribute this fact primarily to
superior and more imaginative seamanship on the part of the Rus-
sian-American Company employees.
Vasilev and Shishmarev must be credited with being only the
second Russian expedition to seek the Northwest Passage in north-
ern latitudes and to have reached further north in the Arctic Ocean
than any Russian party up to that time; in fact 22' further than
Captain Cook. However, in spite of reaching the vicinity of lati-
tude 71° N during the summers of 1821 and 1822, no surveys were
attempted and virtually nothing was added to the information
obtained by Cook more than 40 years earlier. Neither Vasilev nor
Shishmarev had any contact with Eskimos north of Kotzebue
Sound even though they were traveling along a heavily populated
coast where Captain William Beechey visited several large vil-
lages just five years later. Certainly the achievements of the ex-
pedition in this area are very modest indeed when compared with
that of Beechey or the journey of Kashevarov previously mentioned.
It could be argued, perhaps, that Vasilev was considerably handi-
capped by his inability to use the ship's boat in northern waters.
Certainly many of the problems with bad weather and moving ice
which he encountered could have been avoided in a small vessel of
shallow draft that could keep close to shore in these virtually tideless
waters. But it must be remembered that Beechey, as well as many
of the Franklin search vessels^ and the whaling vessels of later dec-
ades, were able to make detailed inshore surveys and frequent land-
ings while operating from large boats.
22 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
The failure of Lieutenant Avinov and the ship's boat to carry
out any of the tasks assigned to him would seem to be a decisive
factor in assessing the success or failure of Vasilev's expedition. Al-
though it is to be regretted that the boat was never able to operate
along the northern coast, it is equally unfortunate that Avinov made
no attempt to carry out his assigned task of surveying the coast be-
tween capes Newenham and Darby.
And so, apart from Shishmarev's explorations along the Asiatic
coast which do not concern us here, the only real achievements of
the expedition were the placing of Nunivak Island and Cape Ro-
manzof on maps for the first time, and the completion of surveys of
St. Lawrence Island begun by Kotzebue in 1816. The discovery of
Nunivak Island is clouded somewhat by a dispute between Vasilev
and Etolin, both of whom claimed to be the first to have seen and
described the island. Actually, as we have noted, the existence of
the island was known to the Russians as it had been reported in the
journals of Korsakovskiy's expeditions. But Vasilev did, in fact,
sight the island 17 days before Etolin in July, 1821. However, the
information which he provided concerning it was not only furnished
after Khromchenko and Etolin had surveyed much of the shoreline,
but was much less extensive and complete. Vasilev really did little
more than sight the island, while Etolin carried out important and
extensive surveys and had numerous contacts with the native
If the naval expedition of Vasilev and Shishmarev must be con-
sidered of relatively little importance in terms of geographical dis-
covery and scientific achievement, that of Khromchenko and Etolin,
with reference to the same criteria, can be considered a virtually
complete success. Extensive surveys of the coast north of Cape
Newenham were successfully carried out and much new information
was obtained concerning the mouth of the Kuskokwim River. Al-
though Etolin was unable to accomplish his goal of describing the
entire coastline of Nunivak Island, the true position of the island
was determined and a reasonable idea concerning its size and the
nature of its coastal topography was obtained. Of equal importance
was Etolin's success in surveying part of the strait separating Nuni-
vak from the mainland. More complete surveys of the island and
its vicinity were not carried out until United States Coast Guard
vessels operated in the area at the turn of the century.
Khromchenko's surveys in Norton Bay were also of considerable
significance and resulted in the placing of Golovnin Bay on maps for
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 23
the first time. The navigator's contacts with Eskimos in this region
were important not only from the standpoint of the fur trade, but
because they provided sufficient information concerning the geo-
graphy of interior Seward Peninsula to encourage Khromchenko to
make further explorations in the Norton Bay area during his second
expedition the following year.
Finally, it is worth noting that the expedition's contacts with Es-
kimos all along the coast provided a foundation for trade relations
which later proved extremely profitable to the Russian-American
Company. In fact, it is no exaggeration to state that the explora-
tions of Korsakovskiy and the two voyages of Khromchenko and
Etolin laid the groundwork for the opening up of all southwestern
Alaska to the fur trade. They were followed between 1829 and 1832
by the interior explorations of Ivan Yakovlevich Vasilev^ and Fedor
Kolmakov which brought the Eskimos of the Nushagak and Kus-
kokwim rivers within the sphere of influence of Aleksandrovskiy
Redoubt. In the latter year Kolmakov established the redoubt on
the middle Kuskokwim that was later to bear his name. In 1833
Mikhailovskiy Redoubt was constructed opposite Stuart Island and
the way was open for Russian penetration of the Yukon. ^" It is
little wonder, therefore, that general manager Muravev was pleased
with the results of Khromchenko's 1821 expedition and reported to
the Board of Directors in St. Petersburg that the company had been
repaid twofold for the expense of providing and maintaining the
Golovnin and Baranov together with their crews.
The success of the 1821 expedition was such that the Russian-
American Company determined to send out a second one the fol-
lowing year, also under the command of Khromchenko. It is ex-
tended excerpts from his journal of this second voyage, the only
published first-hand account of either voyage, that are translated
and edited in this volume. The main purpose of this second expedi-
tion, as outlined in orders from general manager Muravev, was,
quite simply, to enlarge upon the explorations of the previous year.
However, the general manager was particularly interested in ob-
taining descriptions of the Alaska coast from Cape Vancouver, the
western tip of Nelson Island named by Etolin the previous year, to
Stuart Island. It was this stretch of coast that both Vasilev and
Shishmarev and the first Khromchenko expedition had failed to de-
fine except for locating the highly visible landmark. Cape Romanzof .
Further, the expedition was directed to survey the coast from Stuart
Island to a point parallel with the Diomede Islands and farther if
24 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
possible. Also, of course, it was to gain as much information as
possible concerning the inhabitants of this region. It is clear that
the company was anxious to establish its influence along as much
of coastal Alaska as possible in order to secure footholds from which
the fur trade could spread inland. The fact that the Imperial Navy's
expedition under Vasilev and Shishmarev had failed to provide de-
tailed information on this area may also have influenced Muravev's
decision to include more northern regions in the area to be explored
by Khromchenko and Etolin in the summer of 1822.
Readers of the translation and editorial comments which fol-
low will, hopefully, be in a position to make their own assessment of
the accomplishments of this voyage. But perhaps some guidance
can be offered by considering these accomplishments in the light of
three major considerations: 1) the significance of the expedition from
the standpoint of exploration; 2) the information provided con-
cerning the fur trade and company operations; and 3) ethnographic
information obtained by Khromchenko concerning the Eskimo in-
habitants of the areas covered by the expedition.
In assessing the significance of the geographical information ob-
tained by Khromchenko and Etolin in 1822, it must be admitted
that real accomplishments were few when compared with the results
of exploration the preceding year. This was, of course, to be expected
since the second expedition was designed, at least as far as south-
western Alaska was concerned, more to consolidate the discoveries
of 1821 than to extend them into hitherto unvisited areas. Never-
theless, there were a number of significant geographical discoveries
in 1822. The expedition was successful in determining beyond any
possible doubt that there were no islands in the Pribilof group other
than those already known. Also, additional information concerning
the Walrus Islands was obtained and detailed surveys were con-
ducted in the vicinity of Cape Mendenhall on Nunivak Island, along
the island's east shore and in Etolin Strait. Other positive contribu-
tions include information obtained by Khromchenko from Eskimos
living around the shores of Golovnin Bay concerning the drainage
system of the southwestern region of Seward Peninsula. It would be
almost the end of the nineteenth century before more detailed in-
formation concerning the geography of this area became known.
Khromchenko also learned something of the coast of Seward Penin-
sula north of Golovnin Bay from Tungan, a well-traveled Eskimo
who had journeyed to St. Lawrence Island and the coast of Siberia.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 25
One of the main purposes of the expedition, however, was to
survey the Alaskan coast between Cape Vancouver and Stuart Is-
land and to learn something of the inhabitants of this vast area. In
this undertaking they were almost totally unsuccessful. Because
of bad weather and shallow water, it was impossible to make care-
ful surveys of the many bays and indentations which characterize
the Bering Sea coast in the vicinity of the Yukon Delta. Similarly,
surveys in the vicinity of Stuart Island were also hampered by bad
weather and contrary winds. No landing was made between Nuni-
vak Island and Stuart Island. As a result, no information was ob-
tained concerning the people who inhabit the Yukon Delta, the most
heavily populated Eskimo area in all Alaska. Thus Khromchenko
failed to carry out a vital part of his orders. He failed in 1822 just
as completely as Lieutenant Avinov of the Vasilev-Shishmarev ex-
pedition had failed the previous year.
It is probable that this failure to investigate the Yukon Delta
and contact its inhabitants had some adverse effects on the fur trade
after the establishment of Mikhailovskiy Redoubt in 1833, although
the people of this region doubtless knew of the existence of the Rus-
sians and perhaps had obtained some trade goods indirectly as a
result of Kolmakov's trading efforts in Bristol Bay. More impor-
tant from the standpoint of geographical discovery and information,
the expedition's failure to make landings and accurate surveys of
the coastline in the Yukon Delta area probably postponed the dis-
covery of the Yukon by Europeans until Audrey Glazunov reached
this great river by an overland route from Mikhailovskiy in 1834.
It is significant that European discovery of the Yukon came about
as a result of interior explorations rather than an inland penetration
from the coast. This fact emphasizes the barren, inhospitable na-
ture of the coast in this area with the complex Yukon mouth and the
bewildering number of sloughs that appear to lead nowhere. Per-
haps Khromchenko cannot be blamed for his failure to penetrate this
fiat wasteland where significant tidal variations and mud fiats add to
the dangers created by many shoals and shallow water. And yet the
expedition would appear to have possessed the means to make such
surveys had Khromchenko been willing to take the time to do so.
Etolin was on board the Golovnin for the specific purpose of directing
the activities of the small, skin-covered Eskimo kayaks which had
been ordered by the Russian- American Company, along with suffi-
cient oarsmen, for the greater convenience of making coastal sur-
veys. As far as can be determined from the published journal ex-
26 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
tracts, these boats were used only once for this purpose and that was
when Etohn was sent from Stuart Island to survey the strait which
separates it from the mainland. At other times, the boats appear to
have been used only to go ashore to visit Eskimo villages, to hunt,
or to obtain fresh water.
The maps made by Khromchenko and Etolin in 1821 and 1822
have never been published. However, some information concerning
geographical knowledge of southwestern Alaska following their ex-
plorations can be obtained by examining a map published in 1841
in connection with the interior explorations of Audrey Glazunov and
based on a slightly earlier version published in 1839 (see fig. 4).^^
This map clearly shows how little was known of the coastline between
Cape Newenham and Stuart Island. The greater geographical detail
observable between the mouth of the Nushagak River and Kusko-
kwim Bay is, of course, due primarily to the explorations of Kor-
sakovskiy and Khromchenko, and similar detail in the Norton
Sound region is partly the result of the latter's surveys. But the
coastline in the Yukon Delta region is vaguely indicated and only
the accurate positioning of Nunivak Island and Cape Vancouver can
be attributed to data provided by Khromchenko and Etolin. It
should be remembered that the interior geographical details shown
on this map are the result of later explorations by I. Ya. Vasilev,
Kolmakov, and Glazunov.
The published portions of Khromchenko's journal of 1822 end
with the Golovnin at Stuart Island, and it is impossible to determine
from available sources whether the expedition 'actually reached the
parallel of the Diomede Islands in accordance with the instructions
from general manager Muravev. At the end of the final installment
of the journal in Severnyy Arkhiv is the notation "to be continued."
A similar notation occurs after other sections previously published.
It is certain, however, that no further extracts appeared in the jour-
nal. In an article about Khromchenko's career published by the
Soviet historian, A. K. Burykin (1957, pp. 77-80), the author as-
sumes that the second expedition ended at Stuart Island. However,
no additional evidence is offered in support of this supposition, and it
is probable that Burykin simply accepts the final installment in
Severnyy Arkhiv as dealing with the expedition's most northern
activities. Khromchenko notes several times in his journal that he
is anxious to get on with the explorations and he attempts to avoid
delay whenever possible. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that he
did not proceed northward beyond Stuart Island in accordance with
28 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
his instructions, particularly since the season was not advanced
when he arrived in Norton Sound. It is unfortunate that the record
of later stages of the voyage, if they actually occurred, have not been
Since opening new areas to the fur trade, rather than geographi-
cal discovery, was presumably of primary importance to Khrom-
chenko, this may explain why he was unwilling, at times, to wait for
better weather that might have allowed him to operate close to shore
and make detailed coastal surveys. However, coastal surveys would
also have enabled him to land at various locations and advance the
fur trade through direct contacts with the Eskimos.
Be that as it may, Khromchenko did deal with matters concern-
ing the fur trade almost as soon as he began his explorations in
southwestern Alaska. Fedor Kolmakov, manager of Aleksandrov-
skiy Redoubt, was trading at the mouth of the Togiak River when
the Golovnin arrived at Hagemeister Island on May 16. A small post
had been established on the island the preceding year as an experi-
ment and the company was giving some consideration to closing the
establishment at the mouth of the Nushagak because of certain
physical drawbacks, particularly the shallowness of the water and
the treacherous shoals and tidal flats in front of the redoubt. There
were rumors of large numbers of fur seals and sea otters in the vi-
cinity of Hagemeister Island and it was also expected that a post at
this location might be more convenient for the Eskimos living along
the banks of the Kuskokwim River whom the company wished to
draw into the fur trade as quickly as possible (VanStone, 1967, p. 7).
The Hagemeister experiment had proved to be less successful
than anticipated and Khromchenko was directed by his superiors to
assess the situation at the new post with a view to closing it and
removing the residents to Aleksandrovskiy. This was done after
consultations with Kolmakov. Certainly, there was never any
doubt in Khromchenko's mind that the mouth of the Nushagak was
the strategic location for a trading establishment. Hagemeister Is-
land, on the other hand, was not particularly convenient for resi-
dents of the Kuskokwim River and had no other advantages with
respect to the fur trade.
It is necessary to stress the importance of Khromchenko's eval-
uation of prospects for the fur trade in southwestern Alaska because
there is every reason to believe that the company took them seriously
and made important decisions on the basis of information obtained
from the expedition. Khromchenko believed the Nushagak area to
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 29
be heavily populated and he was right. At the time of his visit,
there were approximately 500 people living in villages along the
shores of Nushagak Bay and perhaps another 700 in settlements on
the river, its major tributaries, and in the lakes area to the west.
These numbers were decreased somewhat after a severe smallpox
epidemic in 1837-1838, but the population again increased toward
the middle of the century with an influx of people from areas to the
north and south (VanStone, 1971, pp. 133-142).
Khromchenko's geographical knowledge of the upper Nushagak
River region was, of necessity, based on rumors and guesses. Rus-
sian exploration of these areas was not to take place for another seven
years. Nevertheless, he correctly surmised that the Nushagak
would provide access to the interior and to the drainages of other
important rivers flowing into the Bering Sea. The Eskimos reported
abundant supplies of beaver throughout this area and Khromchenko
noted that these people, increasingly acquainted with and dependent
upon trade goods, were eager to barter fur.
The navigator's positive assessment of the future of the fur trade
in southwestern Alaska helped resolve the company in its intention
to retain the post at the mouth of the Nushagak. It must also have
been instrumental in the decision to initiate the series of inland
explorations by I. Ya. Vasilev, Fedor Kolmakov, and others which,
within a period of less than 25 years, resulted in extensive explora-
tions of the Nushagak, Kuskokwim, and Yukon drainages, and the
establishment of Kolmakovskiy Redoubt on the Kuskokwim and
Mikhailovskiy Redoubt northeast of the mouth of the Yukon. As
on other occasions in the history of the fur trade in North America,
it was possible to open a large area to trading activities in a relatively
short time because the residents were already familiar with trade
goods and ardently desired them. Some of these goods, particularly
those in use among the more northern people contacted by the
Golovnin had been obtained by way of Siberian trade routes through
such middlemen as the inhabitants of Sledge Island off the coast of
Seward Peninsula. Some items of European manufacture, however,
could be traced either to the Vasilev-Shishmarev expedition of the
preceding year or directly to Kolmakov's activities at the mouth of
the Nushagak River, on Hagemeister Island, and at the mouth of
the Togiak River.
At several places in his journal Khromchenko lists trade goods in
the possession of and desired by Eskimos with whom he came in
contact. The reader will note that each time the ship meets a group
30 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
of Eskimos, these people come out in their skin boats, or members of
the ship's company go ashore and active trading takes place. It was
doubtless one of the duties of the expedition to engage in the fur
trade whenever possible in order to obtain revenue for the company
and help to offset the cost of outfitting the ship for the voyage.
More important than this, however, may have been Khromchenko's
desire to establish the Russians immediately in the role of providers
of valuable items and indicate to the Eskimos the kinds of goods they
were likely to receive in the future if they brought their furs to the
Russian traders who were to follow. This was, of course, a long-
established procedure of North American explorations associated
with the fur trade.
Although the Golovnin remained anchored off the village of Ekuk
at the mouth of the Nushagak River for 12 days, it is not clear
whether Khromchenko or Etolin actually visited the new trading
post and settlement of Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt which was located
about 5 miles above Ekuk. Unwilling to risk his ship in the treach-
erous tidal waters of Nushagak Bay, Khromchenko anchored off
the Eskimo village and transported supplies and the personnel taken
from Hagemeister Island to the post in a small boat. Later, Rus-
sian-American Company ships would frequently take on Eskimo
guides at Ekuk before attempting the passage to the post (Van
Stone, 1971, p. 88).
It is hardly possible that Khromchenko did not make at least
one trip to the post with the boat and yet there is not a word about
the settlement in his journal. Of course, Kolmakov was with him
on the Golovnin and, therefore, it would not have been necessary to
go to the post to discuss company business with the manager. In
any event, it is unfortunate that Khromchenko tells us nothing
about Aleksandrovskiy as there is no published description of the
redoubt until the early 1870's, more than 50 years after its founding
(Elliott, 1886, pp. 374-376). There is no plan or detailed description
of the post in any of the known archival repositories and, as a result,
virtually nothing is known concerning the appearance of Aleksan-
drovskiy during the Russian period. Khromchenko had an excellent
opportunity to describe the small settlement in its earliest years and
the various activities that went on there. That he failed to do so
would seem to suggest that he was preoccupied with his orders from
the company, the safety of his ship in unknown waters, and the neces-
sity of heading north as soon as possible.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 31
Although the ethnographic data in Khromchenko's journal is
neither extensive nor detailed, it is virtually the earliest information
that exists concerning the Eskimo population of southwestern Alas-
ka, and therefore important. Early in the journal there are brief
descriptions of the clothing and boats of Eskimos from the Togiak
River who had come to Hagemeister Island to trade with Kolmakov's
small settlement. These Eskimos, like all others met by the expe-
dition, desired tobacco and appeared to be dependent on it almost
to the point of addiction. This trade item was known to Alaskan
Eskimos before the Russians arrived in North America. There are
indications that it was traded across Bering Strait from Russian posts
on the Anadyr River as early as the middle of the eighteenth century
and reached the people of southwestern Alaska through middlemen
in the Seward Peninsula area (Zagoskin, 1967, pp. 100-103) . When
Captain Cook visited Norton Sound in 1778 he noted that the Es-
kimos there were familiar with tobacco, although it was not used by
the inhabitants of Bristol Bay at that time (Cook and King, 1785,
vol. 2, pp. 436, 478). There is archaeological evidence for the use of
tobacco in the Yukon Delta around 1800 and it must have reached
Bristol Bay shortly thereafter, not long before the Russians brought
it directly (Oswalt, 1952, p. 69). Kolmakov and other early nine-
teenth century traders thus found a ready market already existing
for one of their most important trade items.
Khromchenko's journal provides useful information concerning
population movements in the Nushagak River region. The earliest
historic sources, of which Khromchenko is one, mention relations
between the peoples of this area and those from other parts of
southwestern Alaska, particularly the Kuskokwim River. It seems
certain that the mixture of population in the Nushagak area began
in the prehistoric period, but the newly established Aleksandrovskiy
Redoubt served as an additional attraction for peoples from the
north and south. Khromchenko was apparently the first to make a
distinction between the coastal dwelling Aglegmiut and the Kiatag-
miut who, at the time of contact, inhabited the banks of the Nush-
agak and Wood rivers and the area to the west possibly as far as and
including the Wood River Lakes and Tikchik Lakes. The Kiatag-
miut also occupied the upper Kvichak River and probably the lower
end of Iliamna Lake. Members of Korsakovskiy's expeditions re-
ferred to the inhabitants of Nushagak Bay as the Glakmiut and these
peoples have generally been equated with the Aglegmiut of Khrom-
chenko (VanStone, 1967, ch. VII).
32 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
There were already Kuskokwim Eskimos living in the vicinity
of Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt at the time of Khromchenko's visit,
and it seems likely that they frequented the area, at least seasonally,
long before the coming of the Russians. Khromchenko mentions
the Aglegmiut as having moved about a great deal and notes that
they were apparently fairly recent immigrants to the Nushagak
River region and on poor terms with the Kiatagmiut at the time the
redoubt was established. The existence of the trading post, plus the
active efforts of Kolmakov, was instrumental in stabilizing relations
between the two groups. Khromchenko provides some basic ethno-
graphic data on these coastal peoples as well as a vocabulary of 135
Of even greater importance, perhaps, is the information Khrom-
chenko's journal provides concerning the inhabitants of Nunivak
Island. It is virtually certain that these people had not seen Euro-
peans prior to the expedition's visits and his descriptions of them are
the first in the published or unpublished literature. It is significant,
however, that the islanders were familiar with European trade goods,
had well-established trade contacts with coastal peoples at the mouth
of the Kuskokwim River, and carried on a brisk trade with the crew
of the Golovnin.
Khromchenko's failure to survey the coastline between Cape
Vancouver and Stuart Island prevented him from meeting inhabi-
tants of the tundra villages in the Yukon Delta region. Some of the
coastal villages in this area, such as Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, and
Alakanuk, are large and of considerable antiquity. As previously
suggested, the people living in these and other delta communities
probably had no direct contact with Europeans until after Mikhail-
ovskiy Redoubt was established in 1833. It is somewhat paradoxi-
cal that although the Russians were successful in opening the interior
of southwestern Alaska to the fur trade in a relatively short time,
some of the coastal regions within their presumed sphere of influence
remained virtually unknown and unvisited by outsiders until well
into the American period. When Edward William Nelson, an Am-
erican naturalist and collector of ethnographic materials for the
Smithsonian Institution, visited Hooper Bay in December, 1878, he
noted that the people appeared to have seen few if any white men in
the past (Nelson, 1899, pp. 249-250). In fact. Nelson published the
first detailed map of the coastal region between Hooper Bay and the
Kuskokwim River and wrote the first description of the area from
personal observation (1882).
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 33
Compared to the interior, the delta area is rich neither in furs nor
in mineral resources and, as Khromchenko quickly learned, the
coastal waters are shallow and treacherous. This combination of
inaccessibility with little in the way of attractive resources was suf-
ficient to keep white trappers, traders, prospectors, and even mis-
sionaries out of the delta country until virtually the end of the nine-
teenth century. And yet in terms of subsistence resources, the area
is a rich one where heavy and predictable annual runs of salmon en-
able people to live in larger settlements than anywhere else through-
out the vast regions occupied by Eskimos.
When Khromchenko reached Stuart Island, he met large num-
bers of Eskimos from the nearby mainland, and members of the
expedition visited a village near the present site of Stebbins. Here
a limited amount of ethnographic information was obtained together
with a vocabulary of 124 words. These are listed by Khromchenko
with their counterparts obtained from the residents of Nunivak Is-
land. The expedition also learned something about contacts be-
tween the people of Norton Sound and those of Sledge Island, who,
as we have noted previously, acted as middlemen in the Siberian
The expedition proceeded directly from Stuart Island to Cape
Darby and Golovnin Bay, the scene of some of Khromchenko's most
notable surveys in 1821. There the party met a number of Eskimo
acquaintances from the previous year along with a man who had
traveled to St. Lawrence Island and the Siberian coast. Khrom-
chenko obtained a vocabulary of 106 St. Lawrence Island words from
this individual as well as some interesting information concerning
movements of people in the Golovnin Bay-southern Seward Penin-
sula region. The published excerpts of the journal conclude with an
account of a dance which the crew of the Golovnin witnessed, and
some brief comments concerning marriage practices and trade among
the Eskimos of Golovnin Bay.
In making a general assessment of the information in published
portions of Khromchenko's 1822 journal, it is necessary to remind
ourselves once again that his explorations were not a voyage of dis-
covery in the accepted sense, nor was he an ethnographer with intel-
lectual interests in the culture of the people with whom he came in
contact. As simply an advance agent for a fur trading company,
his duties were to provide basic information that would assist his
employers to make their plans for expanding the fur trade. There-
34 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
fore, his geographical discoveries, while important, do not compare
with those of some other navigators in northern waters. In fact,
Khromchenko, although an experienced navigator, appears at time
to have been quite hesitant and timid when compared to major fig-
ures like Cook, Vancouver, and Beechey. For obvious reasons, the
Russian-American Company always pursued inland explorations
with a good deal more vigor than those along the coasts.
The ethnographic information in Khromchenko's journal is ad-
mittedly sketchy. His interest in the Eskimos seldom went beyond
recognition of the fact that they were customers for the company
and the only persons who could provide furs for the trade. Since the
people he met were already acquainted with European trade goods
and anxious to take part in the fur trade, he may have believed it
unnecessary to attempt to learn more about them and their way of
life. But regardless of the sketchiness of his data, Khromchenko's
comments on the Eskimos of southwestern Alaska are inevitably
significant because they are the earliest that exist for this area. The
same is true of the vocabularies. Because of their early date, they
are extremely valuable for studies of Eskimo dialectology. Linguists
can use these word lists as baselines against which to measure dialect
changes that have taken place since 1822.
Commercially and geographically, therefore, Khromchenko's
voyage in 1822 represents a cautious probing by the Russian-Ameri-
can Company into an area outside the one in which they had tra-
ditionally operated. Nonetheless, the results of Khromchenko's
explorations laid the groundwork for a profitable extension of the
fur trade that served the company well during the last 40 years of
its existence. General Manager Muravev may have foreseen this
result of the expedition's achievements when, two years after its
return, he requested the Admiralty Department to examine the
journal of the brig Golovnin, together with two maps which ac-
companied it. The department noted the merit of Khromchenko's
and Etolin's accomplishments and requested the naval chief of staff
to reward and promote the two navigators (Burykin, 1957, p. 80).
1. For translations and interpretations of significant journals
and logs of both Bering voyages, see Golder (1922). An excellent
short summary of the explorations will be found in Tompkins (1945,
2. Primary sources dealing with explorations immediately fol-
lowing those of Bering are translated and interpreted in Masterson
and Brower (1948).
3. The standard history of the Russian-American Company is
4. In a previous publication (VanStone, 1967), I used Berkh
(1823b) as a source for the explorations of Korsakovskiy. Recently,
however, much more detailed and accurate information concerning
these explorations, based on diaries in Soviet archives, has been
published by Fedorova (1971, pp. 66-73) and this account is based
on her work.
5. This account of the first Khromchenko-Etolin expedition is
taken from Berkh (1823a, pp. 45-49).
6. For a concise description and evaluation of Deshnev's accom-
plishments, see Semyonov (1963, pp. 86-91).
7. For additional information concerning the explorations of
Avinov, see Fedorova (1971, pp. 75-77).
8. Between 1848 and 1854 a number of English vessels explored
the northwest coast of Alaska during the search for Franklin's third
9. Two naval officers named Ivan Vasilev served the Russian-
American Company in the early nineteenth century. Ivan Filip-
povich Vasilev, a noted cartographer who arrived in Sitka in 1807,
later commanded company ships and was drowned in an accident
at Okhotsk, Siberia in 1812. Ivan Yakovlevich Vasilev entered the
service of the Russian-American Company in 1821 and, in 1829-
1830, carried out extensive explorations in southwestern Alaska. In
previous publications (VanStone, 1967, pp. 9-10; 1968, pp. 223-224;
36 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
1970, p. 13; 1971, p. 21) I have confused the names of these two in-
dividuals. For a detailed discussion of the explorations of I. Ya.
Vasilev, see Fedorova (1971, pp. 229-232).
10. For a detailed discussion of these explorations, see VanStone
(1967, chap. I).
11. This map, reproduced in VanStone (1959), appeared origin-
ally in von Baer (1839, chap. 5), and was redrawn in Ternaux-Com-
Bancroft, H. H.
1886. Alaska 1730-1885. San Francisco.
Beechey, F. W.
1831. Narrative of a voyage to the Pacific and Beering's Strait, ... 2 vols.
Berkh, V. N. (compiler)
1823a. Kronologicheskaya Istoriya vesekh puteshestviy v Severnyya poly-
arnyya strany, Pt. II. St. Petersburg.
1823b. Puteshestvie uchenika morekhodstva Andreya Ustyugova, i sluzhiteley
Rossiiskoy Amerikanskoy Kompanii Fedora Kolmakova i Petra Korsanov-
skago v 1819 godu. Severnyy Arkhiv, pt. 4.
BURYKIN, A. F.
1957. Chetyre plavaniya kapitana Khromchenko. Priroda, no. 3, pp. 77-80.
Cook, J. and J. King
1785. A voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Undertaken, by the command of His
Majesty, for making discoveries in the northern hemisphere. 2nd ed., 3 vols,
and atlas. London.
Elliott, H. W.
1886. Our arctic province. Alaska and the Seal Islands. Charles Scribner's
Sons. New York.
Fedorova, S. G.
1971. Russkoe nacelenie Alyaski i Kalifornii, konets XVIII veka-1867 g.
Colder, F. A.
1922. Bering's voyages. American Geographical Society, 2 vols. New York.
Kashevarov, a. p.
1845. Otryvki iz dnevnika korpusa flotskikh shturmanov poruchika A. F.
Kashevarova, vedennogo im pri obozrenii polyarnogo berega Rossiyskoy
Ameriki, po porucheniyu Rossiysko- Amerikanskoy kompanii v 1838 g. Sankt-
Peterburgskiya vedomosti, nos. 190, 192, 195.
KOTZEBUE, O. VON
1821. A voyage of discovery, into the South Sea and Beering's Straits, ... 3
38 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Masterson, J. R. and H. Brower
1948. Bering's successors, 1745-1780. Univ. Wash. Press.
Nelson, E. W.
1882. A sledge journey in the delta of the Yukon, northern Alaska. Roy.
Geograph. Soc. Proc, 4, no. 11, pp. 660-667, map facing p. 712.
1899. The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Eighteenth ann. rept.. Bur. Amer.
Ethnol., pt. I. Washington.
Oswalt, W. H.
1952. The archaeology of Hooper Bay Village, Alaska. Anthropol. Papers
Univ. Alaska, 1, no. 1, pp. 47-91.
1963. Siberia, its conquest and development. International Publishers' Repre-
1841. Extrait due Journal d'Andre Glasunow, contre-maitre de la Marine Im-
periale Russe, pendant son Voyage dans les Nordouest de I'Amerique. Nou-
velles de Voyages et des Sciences Geographiques, 4eme serie, lOeme annee
(tome 89 de la collection), pp. 5-27.
Tikhmenev, p. a.
1861-63. Istoricheskoe obozrenie obrazovaniya Rossiysko-Amerikanskoy kom-
panii ... 2 vols. St. Petersburg.
Tompkins, S. R.
1945. Alaska, promyshlennik and sourdough. Univ. Oklahoma Press.
VanStone, J. W.
1959. Russian exploration in interior Alaska. An extract from the journal of
Andrei Glazunov. Pacific Northwest Quart., 50, no. 2, pp. 37-47.
1967. Eskimos of the Nushagak River: An ethnographic history. Univ. Wash.
1968. Tikchik village: A nineteenth century riverine community in south-
western Alaska. Fieldiana: Anthropol., 46, no. 3.
1970. Akulivikchuk: A nineteenth century Eskimo village on the Nushagak
River, Alaska. Fieldiana: Anthropol., 60.
1971. Historic settlement patterns in the Nushagak River region, Alaska.
Fieldiana: Anthropol., 61.
VON Baer, K. E.
1839. Statistische und ethnographische Nachrichten uber die Russischen Be-
sitzungen an der Nordwestkuste von Amerika: Gesammelt von dem ehemali-
gen Oberverwalter dieser Besitzungen, Contre-Admiral v. Wrangell. St.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 39
Zagoskin, L. a.
1967. Lieutenant Zagoskin's travels in Russian America, 1842-1844. The first
ethnographic and geographic investigations in the Yukon and Kuskokwim
valleys of Alaska. Edited by Henry M, Michael. Arctic Institute of North
America, anthropology of the north, translations from Russian sources, no. 7.
PREFACE TO THE TRANSLATION
Excerpts from Vasiliy Stepanovich Khromchenko's journal of his
voyage in 1822 were published in the periodical Severnyy Arkhiv dur-
ing the summer and fall of 1824 in seven installments (no. 11, June,
pp. 263-276; no. 12, June, pp. 303-314; no. 13/14, July, pp. 38-64;
no. 15, August, pp. 119-131; no. 16, August, pp. 177 186; no. 17,
September, pp. 235-248; no. 18, September, pp. 297-312). In the
interests of continuity, two of these installments have been com-
bined so that there are five sections, or chapters, in the translation
which follows. The publication of these excerpts was preceded by
an editor's preface (no. 11, June, pp. 254-263), consisting primarily
of background information on earlier Russian explorations in the
north, trips from Russian ports to Alaska, and round-the-world voy-
ages, which has not been translated. Some information contained in
it, however, is incorporated into this preface.
Khromchenko's journal was turned over to Severnyy Arkhiv by
the directors of the Russian-American Company. The editors main-
tained that in publishing excerpts, they omitted only weather ob-
servations and changes of the ship's course. It will be obvious to
the reader that not all of these were removed. The remainder of the
journal is said to have been published in its original form.
In the translation, words appearing in brackets are those of the
editor, while words or sentences in parentheses are part of the orig-
inal text. Where necessary and when known, the present-day spel-
ling of place names and proper names are indicated in brackets next
to the original transliteration. Place names which closely approxi-
mate modern usage (Pribilov, Nunivok) have been changed to con-
form with such usage. The names of tribal groupings are spelled as
they are in current anthropological literature. All editorial footnotes
are numbered and placed at the end of the translation. Footnotes
in the original text are indicated by an asterisk and are placed at the
bottom of the page where they occur. The first such footnote, fol-
lowing the first paragraph of the journal, contained Muravev's or-
ders to the expedition. It has been omitted and the information
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 41
incorporated into the introduction. Bibliographical references in the
editorial footnotes are listed at the end of the translation.
According to an article by B. N. Vishneveskii (Izvestiia akademii
nauk SSSR, Seriia geograficheskaia no. 5, September-October, 1953)
the original journal of Khromchenko's 1822 explorations was dis-
covered in 1953 among the papers of Kirill T. Khlebnikov (1780-
1838) at Kunger, a central Siberian city northwest of Sverdlovsk.
Khlebnikov, a native of Kunger and prominent historian, was asso-
ciated with the Russian- American Company throughout much of his
life. Vishneveskii notes that the manuscript, dated April 23, 1822,
consists of 121 pages each 21 by 24 cm. in size. The discovery was
made when archival material from Kunger, including the Khleb-
nikov papers, were transferred to the Molotov Regional State Ar-
Excerpts From the
Journal of Vasiliy Stepanovich Khromchenko
On His Voyage of 1822
Departure from Fort New Archangel [Sitka]. Voyage to Unimak Pass."
First trip to the Pribilof Islands. A search. Our conclusion that the lands
which the promyshlenniki^ allegedly see from the Pribilof Islands do not in
fact exist. Arrival at Hagemeister Island.
In undertaking a description of my second expedition aboard the
brig Golovnin/ on which last year (1821) I extended my voyage to
survey the coasts of northwestern America between Cape Ne wen-
ham and Norton Bay^ and to gain knowledge of the peoples inhabit-
ing that area, I do not deem it necessary to enlarge much on the
enterprise facing me, for it is spelled out sufficiently in the instruc-
tions given me by Mr. Muravev.
The ship's equipment and provisions were similar to last year's.
I chose my crew personally and to a man they know their business.
We laid in five month's supply of the best victuals and we had good
astronomical instruments, although unfortunately we did not have
the excellent Barodov chronometer I had last year. Further, for
greater convenience in making the coastal surveys, the governor of
the Russian- American Company ordered the New Archangel office
to furnish me five baydarkas^ with oarsmen.
Mr. Etolin, who last year commanded the cutter Baranov, now
came aboard the Golovnin to take charge of the baydarkas, with
which he was to survey the coastal areas that could not be ap-
proached by so large a ship as the brig, but which could be ap-
proached without danger by baydarka. He collaborated with me in
everything during the entire voyage.
By April 25, 1822, we were ready to put to sea, but calms and
headwinds kept delaying us. At 5:30 pm on the 26 th, following a
calm, a light breeze blew up from the N and we immediately weighed
anchor. The fortresses gave us seven ten gun salutes and, parting
from our friends and acquaintances, we set our course under full sail.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 43
As we stood off shore, the wind freshened and our vessel, cutting the
smooth sea surface, moved swiftly out of the harbor.
By 8:30 pm we had passed St. Lazarius [Cape Edgecumbe] and
Biorka Island, which lies opposite the entrance to Norfolk Sound
[Sitka Sound] and, having taken the bearing of the point we had
passed (Lat. 56°55'N, Long. 135°38'W), we began to steer SW. On
reaching the open sea, I lay SW by S to stand off the coast as quickly
as possible. The weather continued fair the entire time. The wind,
which had shifted from NW to W by N, became gusty and in fear of
these gusts we carried little sail.
On May 2, the wind kept shifting, always being light from the
NW and steady from ENE; the weather continued excellent till
May 6, and we made lunar observations daily. At noon our latitude
was 52^52'7"N, our longitude 162°38'W. For several days running
we saw sea parrots or tufted puffins, kittiwakes, horned puffins,
least auklets, and ancient auklets. In the afternoon we were be-
calmed for several hours, then we had a light breeze from the NNE.
From the forecastle and the crosstrees our sailors kept a steady
watch for the shoreline which should have appeared but which was
obscured by a cloudy sky in that part of the horizon.
At 8:30 PM, through clouds, we caught sight of the northern vol-
cano of Unimak [Island], which was 85 miles* distant. The wind
continued steady at NNE and NE, therefore I kept to NNW. By
6:00 AM of the 7th, we were already in Unimak Pass.
As we approached the coast, the wind lulled; the weather con-
tinued to be clear and quite warm, although the coasts were com-
pletely covered with snow; the mercury at midday rose to 8° above
the freezing point on the Reaumur thermometer [50°F]. For several
hours we were without our favorable wind, which had blown al-
ternately from the NNE and NE, for we had come into the lee of an
active volcano. Soon we were enveloped by a dense fog and by 7:00
PM we could no longer see the coast, which lay 80° to the NE of us
at a distance of 42 or 45 miles.
The next day, as the sun rose, we encountered large flocks of
murres and, at times, tufted puffins, horned puffins, and kittiwakes.
At 1 :00 PM we sighted St. George Island to W by S half W, some
20 or 22 miles away; I immediately made straight for it and by 6:30
PM I was four miles from its NE extremity. Next, after baydarkas
*I have used Italian miles throughout; there are 60 of these miles to a degree of
44 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
had been lowered into the water, I set out for shore, bidding Mr.
Etolin hold the brig quite close to shore.
We had not yet reached the shore when a dense fog suddenly set
in and concealed the brig; this troubled me greatly, for I recalled
that in these waters fog often lasts several weeks, and I pondered
how much time I should sacrifice here. I was met near shore by the
leader of the island, Mr. Netsvetov;* finally, we put ashore in a
small bay opposite the settlement and, thus, against my wishes, I
had to wait on shore till morning on the 9th when the fog lifted.
There was no wind all night and the fog was so thick I could not see
50 sazhens^ before me. Finally the fog cleared away as the sun rose
and I impatiently awaited the brig, which soon appeared from be-
hind the eastern cape.
Baydarka leader Netsvetov assembled everything I needed and
loaded it into a large baydara^ which was ready to launch as soon as
the brig appeared. Thus equipped, we set out for the ship. On go-
ing aboard the brig, I learned that during the night the tide had car-
ried the ship to SE, thus somewhat delaying its arrival.
As we approached the settlement in our brig, we spotted a bay-
dara putting out from shore; I made straight for it and soon we met.
At my request, the baydara had brought several barrels of salted
fur seal meat and blubber and 15 barrels of fresh sea lion meat. I
immediately ordered that everything be unloaded on deck and, tak-
ing leave of Netsvetov, I quickly stood off from the island, which
was then 25° SE of us at a distance of 3 or 4 miles.
When we were about 9 miles from St. George Island the wind rose
and we had to take in two reefs on each of the topsails. The ocean
depth gradually increased and by noon we were in 45 sazhens of
water over a bottom of fine gray sand.
The next day, the 10th, we had intense squalls between NE and
E, with rain and fog. We were in the middle of the strait, but could
not see either island. After the prolonged good weather we had been
having, it seemed very cold to us, although the mercury stood be-
tween two and three degrees above freezing [37-39°F].
At 7:00 AM the fog cleared somewhat and we sighted St. George
Island, which was 20 or 25 miles to the south of us. We were in 38
sazhens of water, with a bottom of fine gray sand and shells. In the
forenoon we saw bottlenose whales and sea birds: murres, tufted
*The Russian promyshleriniki and the Aleuts'' call these leaders baydarshchikiJ
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 45
puffins, horned puffins, Bering's cormorants, and a species of small
At noon our latitude was 57°8'N, our longitude 169"3'W; the
weather continued absolutely unbearable with rain and wet snow;
the ocean depth decreased and when it reached 22 sazhens, I im-
mediately took a different tack. The wind continued to blow in
fierce gusts from NNE and NE, which caused high seas and the ship
to pitch and roll so much that we could not do a thing, which dis-
turbed us greatly. Finally, at 6:00 pm the fog lifted somewhat and
we caught sight of St. Paul Island to the west of us, at a distance of
3 or 4 miles; the ocean depth here was 23 sazhens over a bottom of
The storm continued with brief pauses until 4:00 AM of the 11th.
As soon as the weather cleared, we could see St. George to SE by E
and St. Paul to N by W; St. George was about 33 miles distant, St.
Paul, 17 miles. The lead showed 42 sazhens of water and a bottom
of fine gray sand with shells.
At first I intended to proceed toward St. Paul to ask the inhabi-
tants for more details about where they sometimes sighted land, but
a headwind prevented me from doing so.
Hastening to take advantage of the good weather on the 11th,
I lay to SW under full sail and made 7 to 8 miles an hour. When we
were 30 miles SW of St. Paul, I set my course so as to pass directly
through the place where the promyshlenniki of the Pribilof Islands
sometimes sighted land on a clear day. The wind blew quite fresh
from NNW and N and the weather was alternately clear and cloudy.
Finally, the farther we sailed from the islands of St. Paul and
St. George, the more we hoped that we would encounter land soon,
but our hope faded for we traveled 60 miles from the Pribilof Islands
without encountering any sign of land; we cast our lead without
finding bottom at 90 sazhens.
At 10 :00 PM it became overcast and I now considered it pointless
to sail farther to the SW, for I was firmly convinced that no land
could be seen from the Pribilof Islands in that direction; therefore
I lay to the ENE.
On May 12 at 6:00 PM the lead showed 38 sazhens over a bottom
of fine gray sand. I figured that we had already passed through the
strait between St. Paul and St. George, but before returning to Hage-
meister Island,'" I had to verify the existence of the land which the
inhabitants of St. Paul Island unanimously agreed they could see in
46 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
clear weather from the island's elevation. This land, they claimed,
lay in the sea and always in the same direction, to the east. To
confirm these stories, I headed for the indicated place. The ocean
depth increased from time to time and at midnight was 50 or 51
During the day of May 13, we took various tacks and at night
we heaved to (continuing thus until the 15th), always keeping near
the place and in the direction in which land was allegedly sighted
from the Pribilof Islands. The weather was cloudy the whole time,
but the horizon was so clear we could see for 20 miles in all directions.
Finally, on May 14, having sailed 150 miles to the E of St. Paul
Island without encountering any sign of land, I became firmly con-
vinced that no such land exists and that the promyshlenniki of the
Pribilofs had seen nothing more than fog, which in these parts fools
even the most experienced navigator. At midnight our lead showed
27 sazhens and a bottom of fine gray sand.
On the next day, the 15th, at 3:00 am, I began to steer N by E
and the depth eventually decreased. Numerous flocks of sea birds
of various kinds kept flying about our ship. We saw one loon among
them. At last, at 4:30 am we sighted a high shoreline to the E of
Cape Newenham, at a distance of 25 or 27 miles. We cast our lead
and found 23 sazhens over a bottom of fine gray sand.
Soon a dense fog arose and concealed the shore from us. At
noon our latitude was 58°54'+N and our longitude was 162°8'+W,
the depth was 25 sazhens with a bottom of coarse sand and stone.
The wet fog continued until 6:00 PM. We surveyed the coastline
and made straight for Hagemeister Strait. The wind at the entrance
to the strait was completely contrary at N by W; therefore at first
we were not able to round the low spit that extends from Hagemeister
Island. After rounding this spit, I sailed N half E and N by E half
E along the strait until 1:30 am of the 16th, always keeping to the
north shore. The depth decreased to 12 sazhens. When we came op-
posite Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt^^ I made directly for it; the depth
decreased from 5 sazhens to 10 ft.
I knew this shoal from last year (1821), at which time I crossed
it with the brig, but this time we had low water and the ship's keel
scraped bottom lightly several times, however without damage, and
by 2:00 am we were in eight sazhens of water. Finally, at 5:00 am
we dropped anchor a mile off shore in 5 sazhens of water over a bot-
tom of fine gray sand.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 47
In the forenoon, a three-hatch baydarka approached us from the
shore. In it were two Aleuts and a Russian promyshlennik who, on
coming aboard, informed me that all was well at Aleksandrovskiy
Redoubt. However, he said that the leader had left several days
earlier to bring in a cargo of pelts from his former post.
The news of the departure of the leader, Kolmakov, disturbed me
greatly, as this would cost us much valuable time, but there was no
help for it now.
Our sojourn at Hagemeister Island. Our activities. The Americans'''
bring us Russian promyshlenniki from their dwellings. Calms and head-
winds keep us at the island a long time. Destruction of the settlement and
its transport to its former site. Journey northeastward along the strait.
A headwind again forces us to ride anchor off the northeast extremity of
Hagemeister Island. Our second meeting with Americans and our arrival
at the Nushagak River. i^
To keep from wasting the best time of the year at [Hagemeister]
Island, on the second day of our sojourn there I sent out a two-
hatch baydarka with instructions for Kolmakov that if the baydarka
should meet him near the island, he was to come directly to the brig
with his full cargo. If the baydarka met him halfway between the
Nushagak River and Hagemeister Island, he was to send the cargo
back to the Nushagak and report to me posthaste.
Bad weather and rain continued until the 20th. At long last
beautiful weather followed. Taking advantage of it, I ordered that
all the empty barrels be filled with water, so that we would not have
to put in at the Nushagak River for it. Mr. Etolin and I often went
ashore to hunt, but although we would spend the entire day at it, we
always returned empty handed.
The island was still covered with snow in many places and there
was no sign that the grass ever turned green, but the promyshlen-
niki told me that the winter was not very cold on the island and that
there was not very much snow. Our promyshlenniki spent their time
snaring partridges, which are very abundant here in winter, and
hunting bears. They ate the bear meat as well as the partridge meat.
The bears of which the promyshlenniki spoke are terribly timid. All
the bears here are red and very large. I saw several skins about 8
48 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
In the forenoon of the 22nd we sighted eight one-hatch baydarkas
which made directly for our settlement; I assumed they were bring-
ing Kolmakov, whom I anticipated daily, but I learned that they
were Americans who, at Kolmakov's request, had taken in four Rus-
sian men and two Russian women for the winter, since the Russians
were short of food. Shortly after dropping the Russians off at the
settlement, the Americans came to me on the brig. There were six
of them, all of medium height; both sides of their mouths and their
noses were pierced;^'' the hair of their head and beards was black and
coarse. Their clothing consisted of parkas made of ground squirrel
skins. Each of the Americans wore soft, caribou skin boots. They
told me they had come from the Tuyugyak [Togiak] River. ^^ Their
chief was not with them; they said he was too old to make the trip.
These Americans, we found later, prefer snuff above all else and
use a prodigious amount of it. They had as many as 400 beaver
pelts with them, but left all their goods on shore, awaiting the arrival
The Americans would have stayed aboard our ship longer had
they not sighted Kolmakov, who was making directly for the settle-
ment with three baydarkas. The Americans took leave of us and
headed for shore.
The language and the baydarkas of the Americans are identical
with those of the Kuskokwims and, it would seem, they and the
Kuskokwims are of the same race.^'^
Kolmakov came aboard our ship after noon and with him came
the same Americans who had been there previously. On stepping
aboard, Kolmakov handed me a letter which Mr. Etolin had sent
with an Indian [Eskimo] from Goodnews Bay'^ the previous year
(1821), but the messenger had not found me at the island and there-
fore the letter remained with Kolmakov.
I learned that the Russians whom the Americans had brought
with them had spent the winter with a distinguished chief called
Panikhpa. This kind old man had come to see Kolmakov the pre-
vious autumn solely to learn whether Kolmakov would return soon
to the Nushagak River. Kolmakov, trying to avoid a food shortage
that winter, had asked chief Panikhpa to take several Russians with
him. Panikhpa did not refuse him, but fed and clothed the Russians
all winter as he would his own. Furthermore, on their return he
gave each of the Russians the finest of gifts, according to his custom,
and did not demand any recompense for them. Such a deed is rarely
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 49
encountered among enlightened people, much less among savages
who can have very little feeling for and understanding of the wants
of their neighbor. This example, however, is not common to all
savage peoples of barbarian races, who, instead of helping in need,
often turn a deaf ear on the pleas of Europeans even when those
Europeans are facing famine.
Panikhpa told Kolmakov that the Kiatagmiut would abandon
all trading in furs unless he returned to the earlier settlement.
The settlement on Hagemeister Island had been founded the
year before, but only as an experiment and our settlement on the
Nushagak River had not been destroyed. The governor, having
discovered in my journal and that of Mr. Etolin what trade might be
expected from the inhabitants of the Kuskokwim River^* and Nuni-
vak Island, 1^ proposed that the Hagemeister Island settlement should
be reunited with Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt on the Nushagak River,
and commanded me to investigate the advantages and disadvantages
of the new settlement and then to effect the transport.
We already knew that the banks of the Nushagak River are very
well populated. The upper reaches communicate easily with the
headwaters of all the large rivers that empty into the Eastern Ocean
[Bering Sea] northward to Norton Sound, and these headwaters
abound in beaver.-" The neighboring peoples are becoming more
and more acquainted with luxuries, and through them the inhabi-
tants of remote places are becoming addicted to trade, but the great-
est advantage of the Nushagak River is its proximity to our other
Hagemeister Island is far from all rivers and has no advantages
with respect to trade or supplies, therefore, in the light of the gov-
ernor's instruction and on the advice of Messers Etolin and Kol-
makov, I had no hesitation in moving the settlement back to the
May 23. The weather continued mostly clear until sunset; then
the wind veered to the WSW, slackened, and soon we had a dense
fog. Mr. Etolin and I were on shore at the time and scarcely made
it back to the brig, for the fog was so thick that we could not see
more than 20 sazhens in front of us.
May 25. As soon as it became calm in the strait, I ordered Kol-
makov to bring his whole crew aboard the brig, which he did quickly,
but a headwind, which blew steadily from the E, held us up.
50 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
We had a steady, fresh wind from ENE, followed by a calm that
lasted till 7:00 am on the 26th, then a light breeze blew up from S
and E. We immediately hoisted the anchor and got under way, set-
ting our course NE. I kept close to Hagemeister Island; the wind
freshened and we made 5 or 6 miles an hour.
As we moved away from our anchorage and the gully in which
our settlement had been, we noted that the height of the island de-
creased almost imperceptibly and, toward the NE, it ended in a
completely flat area at water level. The mountains, which were
still snow-covered here and there, were in the SW part of the island.
These mountains were all of medium height and not steep. The
depth was 7 to 10 sazhens all along this route, 3 or 4 miles off the
island, and became deeper farther along the strait.
May 26. On reaching the northeastern tip of the island, we en-
countered a completely contrary wind and cast anchor in 6 sazhens
of water, a mile off shore. We had scarcely begun to ride at anchor
when Americans approached us in seven one-hatch baydarkas, some
containing one man, some two. These baydarkas were exactly like
those we had seen previously. The Americans had set out on a wal-
rus hunt, but on seeing our ship approached us. One of them, named
Fedor, who turned out to be Kolmakov's godson, immediately came
aboard the brig, and the others followed him. Our ship apparently
was the source of much amazement to them; they examined it with
great curiosity, some measured its length and breadth in sazhens.
Finally, Kolmakov's godson presented me with half a fresh, recently
killed caribou and gave his godfather several caribou tongues; then
they all departed for the nearby shore.
You cannot imagine how much and with what passion the Ameri-
cans aboard our ship sniffed ground tobacco. They preferred it even
to the necessities of life.
After dinner, Etolin and I went ashore to hunt, but unfortunately
we saw nothing but sea gulls and Bering's cormorants. The Aleuts
who accompanied us went to the other side of the island where they
found dead walruses that had been cast up by the sea and they col-
lected ten large tusks. From one of the walruses, which was a bit
fresher than the rest, they cut off the front flippers which they value
greatly. The tusks were very large, each weighing 8 to 10 lbs.
All night long we had a steady wind between S and E, with over-
cast and rain. The next day (May 27) at sunrise, with a light wind
from E by S,-^ we set sail and, aided by a favorable current, made
visible headway; the ocean depth decreased gradually.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 51
At high noon, the current became contrary and the wind scarcely
swelled our sail. Accordingly, to keep the tide from carrying us back
whence we had come, we did not shorten our sails but rode on kedge
anchor in 6 sazhens of water over a good sandy bottom.
At 3:00 PM a light air blew from the S and, hoisting our kedge
anchor, we headed E. Thereafter we proceeded along the strait
which lay E by N between the mainland coast and the Walrus Is-
lands,* always holding to the latter. The depth was 10 to 14 sazhens
and the bottom was fine gray sand.
We were opposite the second islet, which from a distance appears
to be two islands, because of its low-lying isthmus. Captain Cook,
who did not see the isthmus, took the island to be two islands sepa-
rated by a narrow strait. Here we saw 11 baydarkas, which were
making their way close to the shore of this island. At 8:30 PM we
passed Round Island, which was 22° to the SW of us at a distance of
23^2 miles." Now we were close to the mouth of Nushagak River,
but a thick fog prevented us from seeing the coast and therefore we
had to heave to until 7:00 am of the 28th. As soon as the fog lifted,
I steered E. The depth kept increasing, at first we had 16 sazhens
then by noon 17 or 18 sazhens. The bottom consisted of fine gray
May 28. Shortly after noon, from the crosstrees we sighted the
left bank of the Nushagak near its mouth and I began to steer N by
W. This bank of the Nushagak was 13 or 14 miles away and our
lead showed a depth of more than 17 sazhens.
At about 4:00 PM we passed the low-lying Cape Constantine,'^^*
which was 10 or 11 miles SW by W of us; we had a steady wind from
the SW with alternating clear and cloudy weather. We sailed NW
by N down the very middle of the fairway. We approached the
cape situated on the right side of the mouth of the Nushagak (this
cape can be distinguished from the others by the Aglegmiut settle-
ment on it). 2'* The depth proved to be 33^ sazhens, so I began to
When we came opposite Cape Ekuk [Ekuk Spit], I cast anchor a
mile from shore in six sazhens of water, on a silty bottom, for I con-
sidered it unwise to sail upstream in the brig, considering the nar-
rowness of the passage.
*These islands are so named for the multitudes of walruses on them. The
islands lie almost in a line from Hagemeister Island. There are three of them, not
four as Captain Cook stated.
52 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Meeting with the Aglegmiut and the Kuskowagamiut. Something about
these latter. Description of the Aglegmiut in their present state. Their
way of life. Their manners and customs. Their clothing and food. Their
dwellings, domestic implements, weapons, baydarkas, domestic quad-
rupeds. Language of the Aglegmiut. A selected glossary of words in
Wishing to leave the Nushagak as soon as possible, on the second
day of our stay, early in the morning, we lowered all our rowboats
and the large baydarka obtained at Hagemeister Island and im-
mediately loaded aboard them the men and supplies to be trans-
ported to Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt.
The weather was splendid the whole time and we had a steady
breeze all day from the SW. Although we were some distance from
Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt, by sunset we had put everything ashore
that was to go ashore with Kolmakov, including the pelts we had
aboard for delivery to the New Archangel office. Only some insig-
nificant things belonging to the promyshlenniki who had come with
us from Hagemeister Island remained on the brig.
Around midnight the wind fell, which was followed by a calm for
several hours, but at sunrise a gentle breeze arose between S and E
under completely clear skies.
Before noon Aglegmiut and Kuskowagamiut from the settlement
visited us in seven one-hatch baydarkas.'^ The clothing of the
Aglegmiut consisted of caribou skin parkas, with the fur side out,
while the clothing [parkas] of the Kuskowagamiut was made of
ground squirrel skins. They all wore soft boots generally made of
caribou skins with the fur side out.
A Kuskowagamiut of rather advanced years, called Kusk, told
me that he had just come from the Kuskokwim River where many of
his countrymen had told him of the break-up of a small ship above
that river. He said that ship's lines and an axe-hewn mast had
been found in the fall of 1821 somewhat to the north of the Kusk-
The Aglegmiut appeared to be very happy that Kolmakov had
returned to the Nushagak, saying that now they could start hunting
caribou without fear of the Kiatagmiut, who last year had wished
to exterminate them all.
The Aglegmiut tribe has a reputation for bravery and fierce bar-
barity among the peoples who inhabit the northwestern coast of
America from Bristol Bay to Norton Sound.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 53
The constant migi^ation, still remembered by the old people, and
constant war with other peoples had made them brave and experi-
enced warriors, but had gi'eatly reduced their numbers. Whereas
once they had been dreadful, now they were persecuted and found
refuge with Kolmakov. It would be difficult to determine their
The Kiatagmiut, out of obedience to Kolmakov, now do no in-
jury to the Aglegmiut, but they cannot forget the barbarity with
which the Aglegmiut had formerly treated them. An Aglegmiut
named Alinakh told me that the Kiatagmiut have no desire to be
reconciled with the Aglegmiut, for they never visit Aglegmiut homes
and never seek wives among them.
Kusk and Alinakh presented me with half of a recently killed
caribou and several caribou tongues.
The Aglegmiut whom we saw were of medium height, quite
stately, with a manly gait, regular facial features, and with coarse
black hair and beards; they, like all the inhabitants of northwestern
America, pierce their nose and both sides of their mouth and put
bones, stones, or sky-blue glass beads in the openings.
The men and women wear caribou skin parkas with the fur side
out. The women wear a kind of trousers together with otter skin
or caribou skin boots.
The Aglegmiut lead exactly the same kind of life as do all the
peoples inhabiting Kenai Gulf [Cook Inlet], Kodiak Island, and the
lands to the north of them. It is difficult to determine the temper
of the oppressed Aglegmiut. They now seem quite peaceful, but this
may be involuntary. Other peoples tell many stories of their ob-
stinancy and barbarity.
They are of the shaman faith, for they believe in sorcerers or
shamans. They fear devils, to whom they always take offerings at
their performances or assemblies.-*^ They do not grasp the concept
of One Supreme Being and do not even have a name for him; rather
they call their various gods and idols by different names.
Their food for the most part consists of products of the sea; how-
ever, in spring and fall they hunt caribou and dry the meat in the
sun, as they do fish, and they use the skin for clothing and footwear.
They take many belugas [white whales] and seals and trade the skins
and blubber to the neighboring Indians [Eskimos] for beaver and
FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Their dwellings are similar in all respects to the Aleutian mud
huts and from a distance look like hillocks; they have a hole in the
roof for the escape of smoke.'-*'
The domestic implements consist of wooden boxes, buckets, cups,
and platters and pans of different sizes. All these are made artfully
and skillfully. They make their pots exclusively of clay and in them
cook mostly fatty foods, with the result that they are greasy and
generally not very clean.
The Aglegmiut have many spears and bows and arrows, which
they apparently use for sea and land hunting. Their baydaras and
baydarkas are identical to those of all the peoples of northwestern
America. The Aglegmiut, in general, honor their best huntsmen, but
their present situation even affects their hunting, for they have be-
gun to neglect it owing to their constant peril.
The Aglegmiut have dogs, which they use as a means of trans-
portation in winter. For this purpose they have large and small
sleds, exactly like the Kamchatka sleds.
The language of the Aglegmiut resembles the Konyag language
in all respects, as can be seen from a comparison of the words I have
Chy sly amok
M agamy k
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS
Yurt [Tent or house]
Badly, It is bad
FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Sweetly, It is sweet
Far, It is far
Near, It is near
I had intended to leave the Nushagak River as soon as the un-
loading and ship's work were done, but headwinds and a dense fog
detained me until June 9. Meanwhile, Mr. Etolin and I often went
hunting and since there was much game here, we not only had fresh
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 57
meat every day for the table, but we had meat for several weeks at
sea. Kolmakov often furnished us with fresh gull eggs and caribou
meat. However, the only fish in the Nushagak River was the
We continue to sail westward. Renewed search. Our conclusion that no
land exists to the east of the Pribilof Islands. We sail northward. Arrival
at Nunivak Island. We ride at anchor on the south side of that island.
Encounter with the inhabitants of Nunivak Island. We round the island
from the SE. Description of the strait and the surrounding coasts. This is
called Cook Strait [Etolin Strait]. Survey of the coasts lying north of Cape
Vancouver. We sail in shallow water along the northwest coast of America
and drop anchor oflf the northeastern part of Stuart or Kikhtakhpak Island.
On June 9, at 3 :30 am, with a steady wind from the NE, we de-
parted the Nushagak River. During our stay there, we made many
observations of the latitude of our anchorage and found it to be, on
an average, 57°40'53"N, and we determined the mean longitude,
according to the two lunar observations I made before and after
noon, as 158°34'31"W.
The wind veered through E to E by S ; in the forenoon the wind
blew quite fresh with overcast, but then the wind fell and soon we
had clear weather.
At 9:00 PM, being 50°30' to the SE and 18 to 19 miles from the SW
end of Hagemeister Island, I again began to head SW, straight to-
ward the place where I had conducted my search the month before.
The ocean depth increased from time to time as we moved out to sea.
On the 10th, at 2:00 AM, we sighted Cape Newenham 30° to the
NW at a distance of 36 miles; we cast our lead and found 26 sazhens
over a bottom of fine gray sand.
Calm and near calm continued till 11:00 AM of the 12th, after
which we had a steady breeze from SSE. Every day we caught cod
by hook and line; in fact we encountered cod quite often here. Some
of them were quite large and none was smaller than 25 to 30 pounds.
At 9:00 PM it became overcast and soon we had rain. At 9:30
PM we were at latitude 57°16'N and longitude 167°53'W, more than
two degrees of longitude to the east of St. Paul Island. On visiting
this area a second time, I became firmly convinced that there is no
land to the NE and E of the Pribilof Islands (land allegedly visible
from the islands of St. Paul and St. George).
58 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
With each passing hour the wind became fresher, while alter-
nating overcast and fog obscured the horizon. Therefore, to keep
from wasting time, I decided to make straight for Nunivak Island
and from there, as soon as the weather permitted, to complete my
description of the northwest coast of America from Cape Vancouver
to Stuart Island. We were in 45 sazhens of water over a bottom of
the finest sand. We tacked and steered N half W.
All night long the wind was quite fresh at SSE with alternating
foggy, wet, and overcast weather. Under sails and foresail we made
8 or 9 miles an hour. The depth gradually decreased and at 9 :00 am
was 26 or 25 sazhens.
Around noon the wind lulled, but the thick fog continued un-
abated and since we reckoned we were quite close to Nunivak, we
proceeded under light sail on various tacks, in depths of 23 to 18
sazhens, often heaving to. The crew spent the whole day catching
cod, which appeared here very often, and we caught so many that I
ordered the surplus to be salted in a special barrel.
Dense fog, alternating with overcast, continued till 6:00 am of
the 17th, then a light breeze came up from the NW, the fog im-
mediately lifted, and we sighted Nunivak Island, which was be-
tween N by W and NE at a distance of 12 or 15 miles. We cast the
lead and found 11 1 2 sazhens of water and a sandy bottom.
I made straight for the cape which projects farthest south^- and
having reached it, I intended to sail along the island toward the
strait. ^^ A light air blew from NW by N and NW by W with al-
ternating clear and cloudy weather. Taking advantage of it, by
9:00 PM we were at 59°47'N and 166°25'+W, with a variation of
the needle of 22°35'E; we were 45° SW of the aforementioned cape,
at an estimated distance of about 7 miles. The lead showed 16
sazhens over a bottom of fine gray sand. The wind quickly died
died down and by 11:00 pm we were completely becalmed.
The calm, sometimes with slight breezes between N and W, con-
tinued until the morning of the 18th; as soon as a light breeze sprang
up from N by E, I began to head for the southern tip of Nunivak
Soon inhabitants of Nunivak Island approached us in about 25
baydarkas.*^ The baydarkas were all of the one-hatch type, some
containing one, some two islanders; on approaching us, each of them
shouted very loudly and probably gave some greeting, as do all
Americans on their first encounter with Europeans: The words ay-ay
and yu-yu-yu were always heard at the end of each melodic greeting.
60 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Among the islanders was the chief Ayagakak, to whom Etolin
had given a silver medal the year before. He came aboard in full
regalia and turning to Mr. Etolin said that he had strictly observed
all the instructions given him in consideration of the medal. One
could see that everything that Etolin had given him had been care-
fully preserved; not even the sheet of paper with the notation of the
year, month, and day that the cutter Baranov had visited the island
had been damaged in the slightest.
Ayagakak, judging by his hair, which was completely white,
must have been very, very old, but despite this he was agile, hale,
and hearty. I invited him into my cabin and he followed me with-
out the slightest objection and was quite amazed by whatever caught
his eye; the only thing that seemed strange to us was that the old
man would eat nothing we offered him, probably because of some
prejudice of his, or perhaps our food did not look very tasty to him.
The Nunivak Islanders on our ship were generally of medium
height, slight, with regular facial features, and black coarse hair.
They were quite stately and had a proud walk. Each had his nose
pierced and his lower lip pierced in three places, and in these spaces
he placed either stones, nicely worked bones, or a glass bead. Ac-
cording to their stories, they obtained these beads through trade
with the Kuskowagamiut.^^
The Nunivak Islanders also cut their ears through and placed
nicely worked bone earrings in the slits.
Their clothing consisted of fox and muskrat parkas, which were
generally sewn with the fur side out, and over this they wore water-
proof coats made from the intestines of sea animals; these coats pro-
tect them from the damp weather.
The Nunivak Islanders offered us white fox, red fox, caribou, and
muskrat skins for hoop iron, Aleut hatchets, sky-blue bangles, and
We sailed as soon as a light breeze came up from the N, and I lay
along the coast to the ENE. Chief Ayagakak and some of the
islanders went straight to the nearest shore, while the others fol-
About 4:00 pm we approached the settlement of Chungalik^"
which lies on the eastern side of the southern end of the island and
we dropped anchor in 15 sazhens of water over a bottom of coarse
sand. The settlement Chungalik was 65° NW of us at a distance
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 61
of 13-2 miles; the southern end of Nunivak Island was 76° SW of us
at a distance of 4 miles.
The Nunivak Islanders who followed our ship fell behind be-
cause of our great speed, but soon after we had cast anchor others,
whom we did not know, approached us from the settlement. Seeing
that they approached our ship cautiously, I ordered my interpreter
to invite them aboard, and to impress upon them our friendly in-
tention. However, they kept their distance from us. Shortly there-
after, an islander arrived from shore who, we were to learn, was
called Tammlokh. On his neck he wore a bronze medal with a replica
of the portrait of His Majesty the Emperor Aleksandr on one side
and on the other side the inscription: The sloops Otkrytie and Bla-
gonamerennyy and the notation 1819.
I learned subsequently that Tammlokh had been hunting on the
western end of the island when he received the medal from a large
ship. Tommlokh also told us that several men from the ship had
disembarked on the island, but stayed only briefly and returned to
the ship. Tammlokh did not know where the ship went, for he did
not see it the next day.
Knowing that Captain Vasilev had been at the western end of
Nunivak Island last year (1821), we knew whence Tammlokh had
got his medal."
For a long while the islanders would not come aboard, but having
witnessed our treatment of Tammlokh, they finally came alongside
the brig and then on deck. They were exactly like the people we
had seen earlier on the western side of the southern end of the island.
Many of them had some European artifacts, among which I saw a
printed linen kerchief, which one must assume came from the cutter
Soon trading began and the islanders traded us red fox skins, of
which they seemed to have very few and those of the lowest quality,
and bows and arrows for iron nails, hoop iron, and trade beads.
The Nunivak baydarkas are exactly like those of the Aleuts and
are armed with walrus teeth fivory] lances and arrows that are well
and skillfully made.^*
The bartering continued till sunset, then one by one the Nunivak
Islanders departed. The sound of the long reception speech con-
tinued to the settlement itself. On disembarking, the islanders lit
campfires at various points and conversed loudly.
62 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
The weather continued to be clear all through the night and since
the NW wind was very light, I decided to stay until morning. The
next day, many of the islanders, in baydarkas, surrounded our brig,
including Chief Ayagakak, who came aboard and presented me with
two red foxes. On my part, I presented him various baubles and
several leaves of tobacco, but Ayagakak would not accept them,
probably because he did not know their purpose. The islanders
again exchanged bows, arrows, wooden vessels, and various walrus
teeth livory] artifacts for hoop iron and some wretched rusty nails.
There was not a single woman among them. As I mentioned earlier,
the baydarkas contained either one or two men.
The aforementioned chief, although revered, does not seem to
have any authority, for he wears the same kind of clothing and orna-
ments as the lowliest of his subjects and his subjects do not respect
his commands. For the most part it would appear that they follow
only [his] advice and often laugh at him; from this one may conclude
that if their chiefs do govern them it is not by sovereign power but by
experience and intelligence.^^
Wishing to reach the strait between the mainland and Nunivak
Island as soon as possible, we set sail under a light west wind. Ap-
parently the islanders greatly regretted our early departure and each
of them assured us that we would find nothing in the strait and that it
would be worse for the ship there than at Chungalik. The weather
continued alternately cloudy with overcast, the wind blew along the
island and I kept the brig as close to the island as I could, the better
to see the windings of the coastline and to determine the ocean depths
along the island.
We dropped anchor 3 miles off shore at 4:00 pm, after having
rounded the SE cape of the island. The Nunivak Islanders put out
from shore in 29 baydarkas and made for our brig posthaste; however,
without waiting for them, Mr. Etolin and I set out for the settlement
of Chinik.'*° The islanders, noting this, immediately turned and ac-
companied us to the settlement. We landed directly opposite the
village itself in a small sandy inlet, the north side of which was cov-
ered with a number of boulders almost reaching shore, while on the
south side of the bay there was a stone bar placed in such a way that
there were no breakers whatsoever at the place we landed.
All the islanders were set in motion by our arrival at the settle-
ment; each of them hurried into his hut and quickly returned with
various products of his skill. Bows, arrows, wooden vessels, and the
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 63
like served to start the trading, which then followed the established
While the barter was in progress, I walked some distance from
the settlement toward the interior of the island, but I had to return
for I encountered a wet tundra area. En route I saw a fresh grave,
around which stood various objects and some baydarka frames. The
weapons of war, however, lay above the grave itself and were not
yet damaged in the least.^^ Later I visited several of the huts, which
are exactly like those of the Aglegmiut. In one such dwelling I
found an iron adze with a short wooden halve which still had a brand
on it, but it was difficult to determine the origin of the adze from this
marking. I bought the adze from the islander to whom it had be-
longed, Chanikhak, who said that he had obtained it from the Kus-
kowagamiut. In turn, they probably got it from Kolmakov, for we
saw here several cloth objects of Russian make, hastily and poorly
done, which the Nunivak Islanders had obtained from the Kus-
kowagamiut, and they, undoubtedly, from Kolmakov.
The inhabitants of Nunivak Island generally are of medium
height and are very well built ; they have quite regular features which
reveal their good nature that is also evidenced by their kind treat-
ment of foreigners. However, their stupidity and careless indiffer-
ence appears everywhere and in everything. The color of their skin,
despite their lack of cleanliness and the soot, differs little from a
European's. We saw no freaks among them; their bodies are spare
but well made.
In general, the women are not very pretty. Their faces are flat,
their eyes small, narrow, and black, their hair is straight, long, and
coarse. They plait their hair into two or four braids over their
temples and interweave blue beads or strands of caribou fur in them,
but these ornaments are tasteless and poor. Their skin is white and
they are very fat, short, and, in general, clumsy. They have a heavy
gait, and even the young ones do not walk with a free step, but wad-
dle, as it were. Their sooty and greasy caribou skin coats cover their
charms and deficiencies. They appear to be more modest than the
women of the Pacific islands, for they are humble, shy, and taciturn,
and they adorn only their arms, not including the hands, with pat-
terns. The iron and copper rings which they wear on their wrists
are their principal ornament. Their handwork is crude, displaying
neither the painstaking work or the taste of the Aleut women.
We found the way of life and the customs of the Nunivak Is-
landers to be completely like those of the Aglegmiut and even those
64 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
of other peoples northward to Norton Sound and beyond. The
steam baths here are constructed exactly the same way as those of
the Aglegmiut and the Aleuts and apparently serve the same pur-
I can say nothing more about this gentle people, for our stay on
the island was short.
In addition to the islanders, we saw four men and four women
who had recently come from the mainland coast. The Nunivak Is-
landers called them Nunipaegmiut.^* An old man, through his
stories and a drawing, acquainted me with the coasts that I would
soon be describing. Probably this American had often passed along
the coast lying between the Kuskokwim River and Norton Sound
and, therefore, was thoroughly acquainted with its situation, for
when he would draw a coastline in the sand, not one of his compan-
ions would contradict him in the slightest.
At 10:00 PM we returned to the ship, a fresh wind blew from the
SW and WSW and the weather was cloudy and rainy.
I proposed that we fill the empty barrels with water here, but
since we stood at anchor some distance off shore, we had to move in
closer. The wind at SW and W was quite fresh and the weather was
rainy and overcast. At 11:00 am of the 21st we got under sail. We
had to work hard to retrieve the anchor, for it was so caught up on a
rock that we could scarcely lift it. When we finally did retrieve it,
we saw that it was bent and did not use it subsequently.
By 9:00 pm, after taking several tacks, we moved into 8 sazhens
of water. Shortly after casting anchor, I had all our rowboats low-
ered and the empty barrels loaded into them; then I accompanied
them to the river in a three-hatch baydarka. We did not reach the
river until midnight, at which time the water level was so low that
it was very difficult for the rowboats to enter the river.
As the workers filled the barrels, I took the baydarka to the left
side of the river, right up to a dwelling which proved to be deserted.
However, we did see some fishing implements and caribou antlers
scattered about the ground. There were also some broken pots and
wooden bowls, many fresh shavings, and a fire which had just gone
out. All this clearly indicated that people had recently used this
As the water increased in the river, I strolled about the island and
saw longspurs, partridges, hazel grouse, and a kind of small snipe
called the redcrop. I also heard the cry of geese and cranes. The
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 65
Aleuts, who went farther inland, said they saw caribou and, on re-
turning downstream, they found a dead, but still fresh, fish of the
salmon family. As soon as the water had risen, I sent the boats back
to the brig, while I directed the baydarka toward the bare islets
situated on the left side of the river mouth.
The river from which we took our water is not terribly wide. It
is not more than 100 sazhens wide at the mouth and the depth at
the entrance is no more than a sazhen. The left bank is craggy and,
in general, consists of burnt [volcanic] rock, while the right bank is
gently sloping and sandy for the most part. The river runs SSW from
its mouth; the bottom is stony and the water is pure. The river con-
sists first of two streamlets which join before entering the sea; at
high water this junction can be approached by rowboat.^*
On reaching the islets, I stepped out on them; my oarsmen col-
lected several seagull eggs and then we returned to the brig. The
islets, three in number, lie along the strait and are no more than 1 Yi
miles from Nunivak Island. These islets, like the coast of Nunivak
itself, consists of burnt rock.* A glance at the coast of Nunivak
Island and its crumbling mountain will convince the viewer that this
country once experienced an earthquake resulting from a subter-
When I boarded the ship at 6 :00 am on the 22nd, the water was
already stored in the hold and all the rowboats had been raised, so
that we set sail immediately. A steady wind blew from the S and
the weather was variable. I first steered ENE directly toward Cape
Avinof.'**' The depth increased from 8 to 15 sazhens, but the bottom
alternated very frequently between burnt rock and fine sand.
At noon, observation showed our latitude to be 60°2'10"N and
our longitude to be 164°48'W.** Shortly after noon, we sighted the
shoreline to the right and, in order to approach it, I steered slightly
into the wind. By 1:00 pm, we were in 3 sazhens of turbid water.
The American coast here is very low. We were almost upon it,
but could not see it and what I have called Cape Avinof is not really
a cape, but an elevation or a small isolated mountain fairly far from
At 3:00 PM we made straight for Cape Vancouver.'*^ The depth
did not exceed 9 or 10 sazhens and we had a steady wind between S
*Some travelers have called them lava or volcanic rock, but I call them burnt
rocks, because they look very much like the cinders one finds in blacksmith forges.
* *Subsequently we derived this latitude by calculation between the Nushagak
River and Cape Count Rumyantsov [Cape RomanzofJ.
66 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
and E under a cloudy sky and overcast. Finally, around 4:00 pm,
the depth again decreased to 5 sazhens and soon we sighted breakers
to the ESE at a distance of about 13^2 half miles. I immediately
brought the ship around to the WNW and sailed thus until 6:00 pm.
We passed WSW of Cape Vancouver at a distance of about 2
miles in 9 sazhens of water over a bottom of pure sand. The wind
shifted from SE through E to ENE and gusted and we had overcast
and rain. I made a port tack close to the wind and tried to keep the
shoreline in sight; the ocean depth decreased from time to time. On
the north side of Cape Vancouver we saw many bays which ran some
distance into the land. I wanted very much to explore them, but
could not because of the shallow water.
As we m.ade our way through the strait between Nunivak Island
and the mainland, we had clear skies and were able to get a very good
look at the island's coastline. The northeast cape of the island termi-
nates in low-lying land and the coast there turns W, then continues
WSW. We could see snow-covered mountains in the island's interior;
the mountains were all of medium height and not very steep.
Cape Vancouver is craggy and a chain of mountains stretches in-
land from it. To the south, the cape ends in a cliff, while to the east
the coast gradually descends until it is not even a foot above sea
level. Therefore, one can get close to it without seeing it. Farther
on, only the elevation of Cape Avinof is visible.
The strait which separates Nunivak Island from the mainland is
37 miles long and 17 miles wide and runs NNW-SSE. In the very
middle, the strait is 10, 13, and 15 sazhens deep; close to the island
the bottom is stony with sand, while in the middle of the strait it is
pure sand and in case of need one may ride at anchor here. This is
called Cook Strait [Etolin Strait] in honor of the famous Captain
Cook, who came very close to these parts in 1778, but shallow water
and fog prevented him from sighting this coast and thus discovering
At 6:00 AM of the 23rd, the wind shifted to the NNE^s and lulled
and shortly thereafter the weather cleared a little. We sighted the
northeastern tip of Nunivak Island,^^ which is all the more evident for
the two low mounds on it.
Fog set in again in the afternoon and was so thick that we could
not see more than 50 sazhens before us. Thus I lost my chance to
survey the north side of Nunivak Island, but I did not feel justified in
waiting until the fog cleared and the wind allowed us to approach
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 67
A gentle breeze blew up from the W under cloudy skies. A near
calm soon ensued, followed by a total calm that lasted until 8:00 pm
of the 25th. Then a light air rose at SW and we lay to the ENE.
Cape Romanzof was 50° NE of us at a distance of 25 miles. We were
in 15 sazhens of water. When we began to have overcast, I tacked
and stood out from shore. We did not wish to lose sight of land
again, so to keep close to it I shortened the sails and kept to W and
WSW all night long.
At 6:00 PM we sighted the low coast to the south of Cape Roman-
zof which stretches NNW-ENE for about 12 miles. We were no
more than 7 miles from it and our lead showed the depth to be 4^4
sazhens. I sailed ESE along the coast even though we were moving
into ever shallower water. At 8 :00 pm, when we were in just 4 sazhens
of water, we saw a chain of fairly high, snow-covered mountains
which were 64° SE of us at a distance of about 30 miles. The low-
lying coast, which we always kept in sight, was scarcely visible and
trended directly toward the snowy mountain chain.
From 9:00 to 11:00 pm we ran along the coast SE by E and SE.
Finally, having convinced myself that this mountain ridge adjoins
Cape Vancouver and that the low-lying coast extending from Cape
Romanzof is a continuation of Cape Vancouver, I hastened to with-
draw from the coastline for I feared that we were in for a gale.-^"
My instructions were to describe the coastline between Cape
Romanzof and Stuart Island and, having surveyed this expanse, to
sail along the northwest coast of America to Cape Prince of Wales
and then into Bering Strait, as time allowed. Therefore, I tried to get
as close as possible to Cape Romanzof to begin my description there,
but the very light breeze we had between S and E afforded us little
cooperation in this endeavor.
At 9:00 pm our latitude was 61°51'N and our longitude was
166°34'+W, the variation of the needle was 23°3'E. During the
night of the 29th the wind lulled and we had a near calm and calm
until 10:00 pm.
Having rounded Cape Romanzof, I proceeded N by E^' and NNE
along the coast. At 10:00 am on the 30th, we passed abreast of the
low spit which stretches northward from Cape Romanzof.^- We were
six miles from the spit at the time, in more than 5 sazhens of water
over a bottom of fine gray sand. A steady wind blew from W by S
under alternate cloudy skies and overcast. The ocean depth de-
68 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
creased and I sent ahead a baydarka with a lead to determine when
we approached a shoal. Having taken this precaution, we sailed on
till noon and as soon as the baydarka signaled us that it was in 2
sazhens of water, we made a port tack. The coast we saw remained
NE by E half E of us at a distance of 6 or 7 miles. This was the last
we saw of land until we arrived at Stuart Island.
In sailing northward, I always tried to keep close to the coast, but
the shallow water which I kept encountering prevented me from do-
All day long we had overcast and a steady wind at WNW and W.
The clouds threatened the rapid approach of a storm, so I feared be-
ing close to shallow water and kept to depths of 7 or 8 sazhens or
At 2 :00 AM on the 2nd we sighted Stuart Island, ^^ at which time we
were 15 miles W by S of it; a fairly brisk wind blew incessantly from
S by W and we had alternating overcast and rain. I did not want to
ride at anchor in a gale, so I turned seaward and moved under light
sail until the wind abated somewhat. As soon as the weather cleared,
we turned about and made straight for Stuart Island, which lay 10 or
11 miles ESE of us. By noon the weather had cleared enough to al-
low us to take the mid-day reading of the sun's altitude, which
showed our latitude to be 63°47'27"N and our longitude to be
163°30 ' + W. Stuart Island was 84° SE of us at a distance of 15 or 20
The clear weather would have allowed us to undertake our de-
scription [of the coastline], but the wind at S and SSW was com-
pletely contrary. This considered and to give the crew a rest, I
decided to go to Stuart Island, choose the best anchorage and await a
favorable wind that would take me south of the island.
The weather continued good and having a light air at SSW, I
held as close as possible to the island, which was not more than 13^
Although the central part of Stuart Island is hilly, its coastline is
low-lying. In general, the northern part of the island is higher than
the southern part; to the west of the island and apart from it are
many isolated rocks with a great abundance of driftwood on them.
We saw many huts on this part of the island, but not a single person.
After rounding the northeastern cape of the island, we cast anchor in
5 sazhens of water over a slurry bottom.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 69
Our sojourn to Stuart Island. A meeting with its inhabitants. A descrip-
tion of them: their way of life, the appearance of the men and women. A
remark on the disease afflicting them. Their clothing. Other adornments.
They slit their lower lip. A remark on their large and small baydarkas.
Their food. Their quadrupeds. Birds. Fish. Whence the mainlanders
and islanders get their iron and pewter goods and their glass labrets. The
language of the islanders and the mainlanders. A selected glossary of
As soon as we dropped anchor, Mr. Etolin and I set out for shore
in baydarkas. Having reached it, we disembarked at a settlement
near a small stream. We did not find anyone in the settlement, but
shortly after our landing at the settlement, some one-hatch baydarkas
appeared from around the east side of the island. At first they ap-
proached us very slowly and gave every indication of being afraid,
but our friendly greeting soon emboldened them. Having put in at
the same place where our baydarkas were, they stood silent for a long
while and would not answer our questions. After they had taken a
good look around, so to speak, one of them asked us whence and why
we came. Our answer reassured them. Our questioner subsequently
proved bolder and friendlier than the rest. His companions im-
mediately set about bartering. They offered beaver, otter, and cari-
bou skins but asked a great deal in exchange.
An islander of advanced years told us of the island they inhabited
and called it Kikh-takh-pak,^^ then in the sand he sketched the
mainland coast of America from that island to the Kuikhpak^^
[Yukon] River and somewhat to the south of it. His testimony and
my recollections of the Kuikhpak River and the coast on either side
of it were in complete agreement. The islander told me that last
year a three-masted ship had come to them and, apparently, had
asked if they had seen a single-masted ship. From the question I
concluded that the ship was the sloop Otkrytie. The islander showed
me a kitchen knife he had obtained from the ship.
When the trading ended, we returned to the brig. Soon about 35
baydarkas gathered around our ship. The Americans sat in them
one or two to the baydarka. Their joy was unspeakable. One of
them delivered a long speech in sing-song, often mentioning our
ship and the word kashat; others, without leaving their baydarkas,
ran their hands over their head, face, and chest then turned their
hands palm up and extended them toward us, showing thereby that
they were as peaceful as we.
70 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
The islanders we knew, those whom we had seen previously on
the island, said that the Americans who were with them lived on
the mainland cape opposite the strait in a settlement called Tauk,^''
which, they indicated, lay to the SE of our brig.
These savages were all of medium height. They wore one or two
whale skin kamleikas [raincoats] over their parkas of ground squirrel
skins. On long journeys, they lash these whale skin raincoats to
their baydarka hatches as a covering.^^
Soon bartering began : the islanders and the Americans traded us
beaver, fox, and otter skins for iron knives, kettles, pewter pipes,
and Cherkass tobacco. They often complained that we paid them
less for their furs than did the Aziagmiut.^* The bartering ceased
about midnight and the Kikh-takh-pags set out directly for the set-
tlement we had visited during the day, but the Americans paddled
into the strait. The Americans said they would return at daybreak.
As soon as the islanders had assembled in their settlement, they
lighted fires at many points along the shore. We concluded that they
were fishing, which would explain the fires at the water's edge.
We had a steady wind from the SW through the night until mor-
ning with alternating cloudy weather and overcast.
The next day, the 3rd, at about 5:00 am we were again sur-
rounded by a few Americans. They did not offer anything for
trade, but invited us ashore. In answer, I dispatched several bay-
darkas in charge of Mr. Karsanovskiy, our clerk, and I ordered
Karsanovskiy to await me on shore. Meanwhile, I sent all the
rowboats for wood and water and I ordered them to put ashore at
the place where our baydarkas had put in and after dinner I myself
went to the settlement.
The wind continued steady between S and W with cloudy and
rainy weather. My American acquaintances met me as I landed, but
the others sat about in groups undoing and laying out their bar-
tered goods, apparently not paying the slightest attention to us.
Having taken a few steps from the landing place, I was detained
by the Americans who showed me their pipes and demonstrated
their poverty by various gestures, saying that they could not get
tobacco during the trading. To get rid of them quicker, I gave each
of them a couple of leaves [of tobacco] and they sat right down on the
spot and began to light their pipes. I then noticed that each of the
women had a tinder, flint, and steel, which I learned later they
obtained from the Aziagmiut.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 71
One cannot tell a Stuart Islander from an inhabitant of the
opposite mainland, for they wear the same kind of clothing, look
alike, and speak the same language. At that time there were about
100 men in the village and nearly as many women. They were all
of medium height and did not differ in the slightest from the Agleg-
miut and the Nunivak Islanders; the similarity of their customs and
language leads one to conclude that all these people formerly com-
prised a single tribe and that various upheavals had scattered them
along the entire coast of northwestern America, from KenaiGulf
[Cook Inlet] to Kotzebue Sound. ^'^
In general, the men and the women have a weak constitution
and are spare; I do not know whether to ascribe this to a lack of
food (a frequent occurrence) or to the immoderate use of tobacco.
The Americans did not have a chief, but often during barter they
would consult their shaman and they showed some respect for him
in our presence.
For the first time in all my years on the northwest coast of
America, I observed a pernicious venereal disease among the people,
a disease which had spread to such a degree that many of those
suffering from it were greatly disfigured. The face and body of such
persons were covered with deep sores. I saw the particular disease
called malignant abscesses.*^" The shaman treats all such maladies,
he often contrives some sort of medicines, casts a spell on the wound,
etc., but none of this arrests the spread of the pernicious disease in
the slightest and it ravages this unfortunate tribe without let or
I observed that the females are more infected than the males,
which is supported by the fact that we saw more women without
noses than men. The men generally are clothed in parkas made of
gi'ound squirrel skins, with the fur side out. The under garment
of the men and women is identical. Generally, it is made of seal skin
or raven's-duck skin, the former being worn by the men and the
latter by the women. The footwear of both sexes is identical; it
consists for the most part of soft Chukotsk reindeer skin boots,
which they get through trade with the Aziagmiut. The women also
wear the parka, which they make from the hides of young caribou.
Males up to 14 or 15 years of age wear the same ornaments as
the women: they adorn their neck with beads of various colors and
with sky-blue bangles; in addition, the women wear an arm ornament
of several iron and copper rings.
72 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Both sexes have black, coarse hair; the men wear their hair
close-cropped, while the women plait their hair in two braids, which
they wear over the temples and which they smear generously with
The men slit their lower lip through on both sides of the mouth
and place a [sky-blue] glass bead or a worked stone in the opening.
Both the men and the women slit their ears from the top downward,
but in place of earrings the men use well-polished bones and the
women wear a blue glass bead and small thongs.
Their large baydaras and their baydarkas are identical to those
we saw among the Aglegmiut and the inhabitants of Nunivak
Island."^ For the most part, these people depend on the bounty
of the sea for their food. In summer they catch many fish and in
spring and fall they hunt the caribou. They eat the meat of the
caribou and trade its hide to the Aziagmiut. Caribou not only
inhabit the mainland coast, but Stuart Island as well, for we saw
many signs of them on the island.
We saw different kinds and vast numbers of birds along the
island's coast: for the most part they were the same as those found
along the coast of Kamchatka.
The fish here are exactly the same as those caught in the Nusha-
gak River. There are very many quinnat salmon and the natives
not only use them for food, but render their fat and store it in
bladders; further, they make women's clothing from the skins."-
These Americans make some attempt to hunt animals in winter,
but only to have something to trade the Aziagmiut for pewter pipes,
knives, some tobacco, and glass labrets. They spend the rest of the
year in idleness, caring little for the future, and often going hungry.
The women are absolute slaves to the men. They do the heavi-
est work and prepare the winter provisions. During nomadic wan-
derings, they carry the loads or paddle the baydarkas. They build
the dwellings, etc. ; in a word, they do all the domestic work.
The Stuart Islanders and the Americans speak the same lan-
guage, which is similar in many ways to the language of the Agleg-
miut and the Nunivak Islanders, as may be seen from the words
Stuart Islanders Nunivak Islanders
Man Nugalpyak Nugaspyak
Woman Agnak Agnak
Old Man Aguk Anusmogak
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS
Yurt [Tent or
FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
To arise, get up
Deep, it is deep
Shallow, it is shallo
Hot, it is hot
To trade, barter
Early, it is early
Late, it is late
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS
Difficult, it is
Easy, it is easy
Survey of the strait by baydarka. Departure from Stuart Island. Journey
to Cape Darby. Arrival at Golovnin Bay. A meeting with Americans.
Realization that Golovnin Bay communicates with the Kaviyak or
Kheuveren [Kuzitrin] River. An American named Tungan informs us of
some Russian names and tells us of St. Lawrence Island.
As soon as the weather improved, I sent Mr. Etolin and several
baydarkas to investigate the strait and to survey, in as far as pos-
sible, the part of the mainland coast that extends southward from
the strait. I sent my clerk Karsanovskiy with two baydarkas to
the settlement of Tauk to determine how populous that village was.
The Americans left Stuart Island and we did not see them there
after four o'clock. Apparently there are no permanent American
dwellings on the island and the settlement is used only as a shelter
during the trading season.
Mr. Etolin returned to the brig late in the evening. First he had
gone to the east cape of Stuart Island, where he landed his baydarkas
and scanned the whole coast from that elevation. It ends in high
ground. Mr. Etolin encountered a sand bar toward the SE and had
to return to Tauk.
The strait which lies between the mainland and Stuart Island
is not more than ly? miles wide, according to Mr. Etolin's descrip-
tion. The strait is 4 and 3 sazhens deep near the middle, while
nearer the island it is 4 or 5 sazhens deep, but only in places. Every-
where the bottom consists of tough silt.
Karsanovskiy reported that the Americans in the settlement had
treated him very kindly. He counted about 40 houses*^^ of various
sizes and said there were about 200 Americans of both sexes in the
settlement. They offered him only fresh and dried fish in trade. He
also said that he had seen dogs on the shore and near the huts many
76 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
sleds, which, he said, were identical to those we had seen among the
inhabitants of Nunivak Island.
A steady south wind prevented me from fulfilling my mission.
To keep from delaying our visit to the other places cited in my In-
structions, I immediately weighed anchor and headed northward.
On the 5th, at 8:30 am, we began to steer NW directly toward
Cape Darby.*^^ At first we had a fairly brisk wind from the S, with
alternating clear and cloudy weather, but it fell completely calm
before noon. Our observations showed that at noon our latitude
was 63°49'N and our longitude 162°29'+W. The northern end of
Stuart Island was 32° and 10 miles to the SE of us and Bezborug
[Besboro] Island'^*' was 35° and 31 miles to the NE. The lead showed
a depth of 10 sazhens. The calm continued until 12:30 pm, when a
steady breeze rose between S and E. We proceeded NNW half W
and the weather continued to be quite good, but overcast concealed
the northern coast of Norton Bay from us. When the overcast
dissipated a little, we sighted Cape Darby to the NW. When we
were 6 or 7 miles from the cape, the sailors began to shout that they
saw a ship under sail, but on looking more closely they discovered
that what they had seen were two vertical rocks which looked a great
deal like a ship under sail.
At 6:00 PM, after rounding Cape Darby, which was then 50° to
the NE of us at a distance of about 13^ miles, we began to steer NW
13^2 W,*^' directly into Golovnin Bay. We had a fairly steady wind
from the SSE, with overcast and rainy weather. The ocean depth
decreased from time to time.
At 8:30 PM we dropped anchor in 4 sazhens of water about a
mile off shore. Cape Darby was 57° and about 113^^ miles to the
SE of us, Rocky Point^^ was 10° and 732 miles to the SW of us,
Gribanov Island*'^ was 86° and 4'^ ■? miles to the NE of us, and the
settlement Chinik"" was 40° and 6 miles to the NW of us.
We had a fresh S wind all night long with rain and overcast.
The next day at about 2:00 PM the wind lulled a bit after shifting
from S to SSW.
At 6:00 PM two one-hatch baydarkas carrying the Americans
Chikun and Taypa arrived from the settlement Uzhigalit.^^ They
recognized me immediately and approached our brig without appre-
hension. Once aboard, our guests were very happy to learn that we
had brought much tobacco and many pewter pipes; in fact they
danced up and down with joy and, going up to every sailor, said
"kuyanna-kuyanna" (that is, "Our friends! Our friends!')."
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 77
Soon Chavysmyak, the chief, whom I had given a silver medal
the year before, arrived. He had seven men and two women with
him in his baydara. The Americans who were with us told their
countr5rmen everything we had told them and, embracing each other
for joy, every other minute they shouted "kuyanna!!"
Chief Chavysmyak did not have the medal I had given him, he
said that he had given it to his son and then he showed me a bronze
medal that he probably received from Captain Vasilev, for it was
identical with the one I had seen on Nunivak Island. Chavysmyak
told me that four days after my departure from the bay last year,
a three-masted ship had approached Cape Darby. He had gone
aboard that ship and received the medal from its commander. He
said, however, that the ship did not cast anchor and that he had not
seen it subsequently and thus did not know where it had gone.
My friends stayed aboard the brig until sunset, then they took
their leave and set out for shore. Some of them made directly for
Chinik, probably to inform their countrymen of our arrival.
The next morning at sunrise, the Americans again surrounded
our ship in two large baydaras and 12 small, one-hatch baydarkas.
In all there were 32 men and women. Our acquaintances came
aboard, and by virtue of this acquaintanceship represented their
countrymen in barter. The others did not leave their baydaras and
baydarkas but stayed near the brig. As soon as the trading began,
I set out for Uzhigalit, thinking that I could buy some fresh fish
for my crew there.
Some of the Americans accompanied me right up to the shore-
line and then returned to the brig. I put in directly opposite the
place where we had cut wood the year before. This spot is about
50 sazhens south of the dwellings. There we found the remainder
of our firewood, the Americans had not touched a single stick of it,
probably thinking that such an action would be punished. From
there I went to Uzhigalit where I was met by two old women who
were not the least afraid of me, since they knew me. They ap-
proached us and invited us into their huts where they served us
various dishes prepared according to their taste.
They gave us a fair amount of fresh fish and a goodly amount
of dried fish in exchange for needles and tobacco. Having obtained
everything I needed, I returned to the brig where the trading was
still underway. The Americans offered us beaver and fox skins for
iron knives, spears, and tobacco. Meanwhile, I inquired about
78 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Golovnin Sound. (I called it a sound, for the stories I had heard
about it indicated that it communicated with another body of water.)
I asked which body of water it communicated with and where one
could go from there. Of our visitors, two Americans, Nuksyuk and
Abysk, had recently returned by way of the aforesaid communica-
tion. They said that the headwaters of the Kweigat Tuksmuk
River," which empties into Tachik [Golovnin] Bay closely approach
another river that empties into the sea and which they called the
Kaviyayak River.'^^ They stated that it is quite difficult to get from
one river to the other because of Mount Kinkhtyryuk, which is in
the way, but that the mountain is not very steep and travelers always
portage their baydarkas and baydaras over it. Accordingly, I will
henceforth speak of Golovnin Bay, not Golovnin Sound, the more so
because I now know that the word tachik in the American language
When the trading was concluded, the Americans bade us farewell
and went to Uzhigalit.
All night long we had overcast alternating with rain, with a
light air from the NW. Evidently wet weather does not deter the
Americans in the least, for by early morning they had again begun
to collect around our brig and by noon four large baydaras and
eight small, one-hatch baydarkas had assembled. Naglin, an old
man and my acquaintance, came from Cape Darby. With him was
his eldest son, who wore a bronze medal about his neck. He stated
that this medal, too, had been obtained from Captain Vasilev. An
American named Tungan, whom I did not know at all, showed us
many animal skins, but did not offer a single one for trade. Our
guests, who had begun to bore us with their frequent visits, stayed
until 4:00 pm and then set out for the nearby shore.^°
As soon as the weather cleared, I went ashore. My clerk Kar-
sanovskiy followed me to engage in barter; we put in at the rocks
opposite Uzhigalit. One cannot imagine the joy with which the
Americans greeted us. The words "kashat kuyannal" were repeated
loudly numerous times by the crowd of savages. Many of them,
crowding each other, ran to our baydarkas and very carefully re-
moved them from the water. Finally, calming down a little, they
dispersed and reassembled in groups in various places. The women
were quite apart from the men; having kindled a fire, they prepared
supper for the men and took no part whatever in their conversation.
Karsanovskiy immediately began the bartering and I, accompanied
by some Americans, set out for the lakes that were not far from the
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 79
settlement. My guides followed me until I fired at a snipe, a red-
shank. After this none of them dared to approach me and when I
called to them, they remained silent.
My hike to the lakes was not in vain: I shot a fair amount of
game and by evening I returned to our landing site. The barter
with the Americans was terminated and Karsanovskiy prepared the
baydarkas for departure. During the bartering, the American
Tungan had told him about some Russians, whom he called Vasilev
Although it was already late, I decided to stay ashore to inquire
further about Vasilev and Vorobev. For a long while Tungan would
not comply with my request to repeat his stories, protesting that he
could not speak with us long because his eyes hurt terribly. Finally
I won him over and he told us the following story. While he was
traveling from the settlement Nykhta^'' (on Cape Prince of Wales)
to Golovnin Bay, a storm came up suddenly and carried him out
to sea in his one-hatch baydarka. For two nights* the storm carried
him he knew not where and on the third night he arrived in a strange
land. Its inhabitants immediately received him in a kindly manner
and he remained there a long time, but he had no idea how many
years he spent with these people. He learned that the land to which
he had come was a long island inhabited by a poor people who live
on whale and walrus meat. They traded the walrus skins in the
neighboring land, which was one night's journey from the western
end of the island. He called this land Kuslit and it was there that
he had seen the aforementioned Russians a number of times.
Tungan, wishing to comment on the places to which his unex-
pected journey had taken him, found a smooth spot on the sand and
sketched the American coast from where we were to Bering Strait;
then he sketched the nearby island. The island closest to Golovnin
Bay he called Aziyak [Ayac, or Sledge Island] ; the next island farther
up the coast he called Ukivok [King Island] and said that it was
inhabited. The people live on the steep cliffs and for the most part
trade furs with the peoples who live in Kuslit ; next he delineated two
large islands and to the south of them, a tiny islet, giving each of them
its own name. Finally, he formed the American coast into a cape
opposite those islands and from this cape continued the coast, as
one would expect, northward; in marking out the aforementioned
coast, he would often draw a line incorrectly, redraw it, and turning
*In general, the Americans reckon a long journey by the number of nights it
80 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
to his countrymen would say that at this point the coast takes such
and such a turn.
He sketched in the Kavsyak River" opposite Ukivok Island,
saying that the inhabitants of that island often visit the river and
sometimes, toward autumn, they travel to Golovnin Bay. He then
proceeded to draw the land where he had spent such a long time,
designating it as a long island and saying that the inhabitants call
it Chuakak.* At the eastern end of St. Lawrence Island he drew
three small islands, saying that the northern island has a steep
mountain and that there is a dwelling at its foot. He called this islet
Punuk.^^ Finally, he drew Kuslit, saying that he had seen the
Russians Vasilev and Vorobev there, and as proof of this he spoke
several words which he had often heard the Russians say. Tungan
said the following: Papush tabaku [a bundle of tobacco leaves],
truhka tabaku [a pipe of tobacco], and proshka tabaku [snuff] and, in
addition, he pronounced some curse words used by our common
As a conclusion to these tales, I must mention that the storm
had carried Tungan to St. Lawrence Island, which is evident from the
sketch and undoubtedly he could have visited the east coast of Asia
often and have seen Russians, for, as he had already stated, the
inhabitants of St. Lawrence Island often travel to the Asian coast to
trade walrus skins. Taking everything into consideration, it may be
assumed that Tungan could have gone to the Anadyr River where,
one would think, he saw Vasilev and Vorobev who, according to his
stories, traded with the savage peoples, a trade that may have been
conducted by private persons.
Tungan related that last year he had left Kuslit with some
Ukivok Islanders and then had crossed the Kaviyayak and Kweigat
Tuksmuk rivers and had reached his homeland.
When our conversations had ended, I set out for the brig and
asked my new acquaintance to visit me on the ship the next day.
The Americans, including Tungan, arrived at 4 :00 AM and I invited
Tungan into my cabin and repeated last evening's conversation.
He drew on paper all those coasts which he had drawn in the sand,
exactly as he had done before. Through Tungan I was able to learn
*Perhaps the discrepancy in the naming of St. Lawrence Island, which Mr.
Kotzebue called Chibono and which Tungan called Chuakak, stems from the fact
that Tungan was a foreigner there or perhaps it is due to the imperfection or the
characteristic of the language. Similarly, various Europeans called the late king of
the Sandwich Islands different names and each considered himself correct.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS
something of the language of the inhabitants of Chuakak or St.
Lawrence Island. I list below the words I collected. ^^
WORDS IN THE CHUAKAK ISLAND LANGUAGE
Yurt [Tent or house]
Aniyu or Kapyyukhta
FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
Poorly, it is poor
Far, it is
Near, it is near
Deep, it i
it is shallow
Hot, it is
it is difficult
Easy, it is easy
The Americans stayed aboard the brig until two o'clock, after
which they set off for different points. When Tungan departed, I
presented him with a silver medal from among those given me for
distribution among the savage peoples. Tungan begged me for a
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 83
trap, explaining that he would show his countrymen how to use it;
he had told us earlier that he had often seen traps at Vasilev and
Vorobev's place and that he knew how to set a trap and what
safety measures to take in doing so.
Tugan differed in no way from his countrymen with respect to
clothing and ornament, but his native intelligence attracted our
attention. Although he had little understanding of other lands, he
was very curious to know whence we had come, whether there were
many other people left there, and who commanded them. As he
learned about foreign lands, he invariably wanted to have a sketch
of them. He asked me for a scrap of paper and with a pencil he out-
lined all those distant countries of which I spoke and kept asking
"is this the way it is?" Then, turning to his countrymen, he spoke
at length with them about it all and finally said: "Oh, how many
peoples there are in this land [world] besides us!"
Shortly after the departure of the Americans, Mr. Etolin and
I set out for Rocky Point by baydarka; en route we met our Aleuts
and the clerk Karsanovskiy, who were on their way to a dwelling
to trade for pelts, but I ordered them to follow me. Without going
as far as Rocky Point, we put in opposite a small settlement, where
we were met by Chief Chavysmyak and the Americans accompany-
ing him. They conducted us to their dwelling, which was 50 sazhens
from the sea. On the way we saw many scaffoldings on which a large
quantity of different kinds of fish w^ere drying. Chief Chavysmyak's
wife and small daughter served us our meal. They offered us whale
meat and boiled fish, but the food had such a repulsive odor that
none of us would try it, except for the Aleuts who considered it a
great delicacy. We had the opportunity to see an American dance,
which Chavysmyak told us was performed only at entertainments.
It began as follows: first the men formed a circle, then one of them
began beating a tambourine [drum] and singing in a doleful voice,
another went into the middle of the circle, leaned a bit forward, and
with every gesture stamped his foot, looked in all directions as if he
feared someone, then stealthily drew his bow and shot an arrow.
All this was repeated in the same order, four times or more, always
to the accompaniment of several words spoken in a frightened voice.
Then the men, women, and gi'own children danced together until
they grew tired. The American dance is so monotonous that it gives
the viewer no pleasure. The women are even less adept [at the
dance than are the men and boys]. The Americans, however, love
84 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
the dances of other peoples, which are incomparably livelier and
more diverse than their own.
The American singing voice is very rough and unpleasant to
the ear; it has little variation and is often despondent. I understand
that the Americans have their own poetry, which consists solely of
military songs, some heroic and some humorous. The humorous
songs are especially popular with these savages. Special persons
called "kashats," compose most of these songs and this earns them
no little respect among their countrymen. Often the Americans,
like the Aleuts or the Yakuts, take some phrase and sing it in
chorus, for example, "Ya tahak kroshu, a ty net" [I chop tobacco, and
you don't]. Out of boredom, the savages sometimes chant this same
song for an hour or more.
After the dance, we watched how the Americans sometimes cap-
size their baydarkas and without getting out of them, right them
again. Chavysmyak told us that they begin learning this art when
they are very young so that by the time they reach adulthood they
have it mastered.
Here I happened to see a young girl who was already married,
although she was not yet ten years old while her husband was per-
haps 20 years old or older. When I asked why they gave such a
young girl in marriage, her mother answered that if the girl were not
married by that age, everyone would laugh at her and come to
despise her. Perhaps the ambition or the advantages gained by the
girl's father may have something to do with the giving of daughters
in marriage at such a young age. The marriage customs of the
Americans appear to be identical to those of the Kodiak Aleuts, for
after marriage a son-in-law becomes almost a workman in his father-
in-law's house. He always gives his father-in-law the best of his
catch, the best object he gets in trade, and the greater part of all
An American considers himself more fortunate to have daughters
than sons, for sons may leave him after marriage, while a son-in-law
is obliged to support his father-in-law.
The Americans offered us fully equipped baydarkas in trade,
one of which Mr. Etolin obtained for a Chukot spear and tobacco,
but not one of the Americans wanted to part with his furs, because
we could not give them much tobacco, for which and only which
they will trade their fox skins. They are great masters of the art of
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 85
barter; they drive a very hard bargain, always consult each other
and, finally, take great pleasure in thinking they have cheated
1. The Russian text says "Unalaska Strait," but this is pre-
sumed to be incorrect (see p. 43). Unimak Pass is one of the prin-
cipal ship passages through the Aleutian Islands.
2. This term, which literally means "enterprisers," can best be
translated in the context as "fur hunters." Actually promyshlenniki
served as soldiers, sailors, manual laborers, and traders as well as
fur hunters. The term seems to have been applied originally to
those individuals who signed up with merchant associations in Si-
beria to obtain furs in Alaska during the half century preceding the
establishment of the Russian-American Company in 1799 (Sarafian,
1970, p. 14).
3. Golovin throughout the Russian text. It is not clear why the
name of Khromchenko's ship, that of the famous circumnavigator
V. M. Golovnin, is so consistently mispelled.
4. Cape Newenham and Norton Sound, from which the desig-
nation for the bay is derived, were named by the Cook expedition in
1778. Derivations of the nam.es of geographical features will be
noted only within the region of Khromchenko's explorations.
5. The Eskimo kayak.
6. This term was used for a number of different linguistic groups
by the Russians. Most frequently they distinguished between the
Aleut-speaking Fox Island Aleut and the Kodiak "Aleut" who are
actually Koniag-speaking Eskimos.
7. Literally, a baydarka leader or owner of a baydarka, this
term also referred to the appointed leaders in Eskimo settlements.
The Yakut term toyon was also frequently used for those individuals
appointed by the Russians to assist in obtaining furs from their fel-
low villagers (see VanStone, 1968, p. 226).
8. A sazhen is equal to seven feet.
9. The Eskimo umiak, a large, open skin boat.
10. Khromchenko is referring to his first visit to the island the
preceding summer. Both Hagemeister Island and the strait which
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 87
separates it from the mainland were named, probably by the Kor-
sakovskiy expedition in 1819, for Captain Leontiy Andrianovich
Hagemeister, Baranov's successor as general manager of the Russian-
11. Not to be confused with the Russian-American Company's
station of the same name at the mouth of the Nushagak River.
12. Khromchenko uses this term to refer to Eskimos from the
13. According to Eskimos living along the river today, upriver
people in the early historic period referred to the Nushagak as the
Ilgayak, a place name that has no meaning. Inhabitants of the
lower river and Nushagak Bay called the river Tahlekuk which
means "elbow," a reference to the shape of its lower reaches. The
name Nushagak has no meaning to local people at the present time,
nor are they aware of its origin.
14. A reference to the ivory labrets worn by Eskimos in this area.
15. Khromchenko may have been the first to report the Eskimo
name for this river. Its earliest appearance on a published map is in
1826 (Sarychev, 1826, map 3).
16. The inhabitants of the Togiak (Togiagamiut) and Kusko-
kwim (Kuskowagamiut) rivers are Eskimoan speakers of the Western
Eskimo language stock (Yupik). This linguistic grouping is sepa-
rated into three major dialect clusters: Yuk, which includes the
coastal and adjacent riverine peoples from St. Michael to Bristol
Bay and Iliamna Lake; Cux, spoken only on Nunivak Island; and
Suk, spoken on Kodiak Island and the adjacent mainland (Ham-
merich, 1958, pp. 632-639). It will be noted, therefore, that the
Togiagamiut and Kuskowagamiut are both Yuk speakers. The form
and design of the kayaks of these areas are essentially the same, al-
though the style changes in the northern part of the area occupied
by Yupik speakers (see Nelson, 1899, pp. 218-222, pi. LXXIX).
17. Named by the Korsakovskiy expedition in 1819.
18. The Eskimo name for this river was first reported by the
Korsakovskiy expedition in 1819.
19. Although sighted first by Vasilev in July, 1821, and named
Otkrytie after his ship, Khromchenko and Etolin were presumably
the first to report the native name for this island (see "Introduction,"
20. Although Khromchenko sounds knowledgeable concerning
the upper Nushagak, the region was not explored until 1830 when an
88 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
overland expedition under the leadership of Ivan Yakovlevich Vasi-
lev ascended the river to its headwaters, crossed over to the Holitua,
and descended that stream to the Kuskokwim (see fig. 2) . Two years
later, Fedor Kolmakov made a similar trip and founded the first
trading post on the Kuskokwim at its confluence with the Holitna
(Fedorova, 1971, pp. 229-232; VanStone, 1967, pp. 10-11). Al-
though it is something of an exaggeration to say, as Khromchenko
does, that the upper reaches of the Nushagak "communicates easily
with the headwaters of all the large rivers which empty into the (Be-
ring Sea) northward to Norton Sound," it is true that the Kuskokwim
and Yukon can be reached in this manner. Using this route, to-
gether with the Yukon, the Russians were able to open all of south-
western Alaska to the fur trade by 1845 (VanStone, 1967, pp. 51-52).
21. The Russian text reads E by W, but this would appear to
be a misprint.
22. Captain James Cook sighted and named Round Island in
July, 1778 (Cook and King, 1785, vol. 2, p. 431). The origin of the
name Walrus is obscure. Sarchyev (1826, map 3) applied the name
to an island which Tebenkov (1852, map 4) identified as the Round
Island of Captain Cook. Tebenkov applied the name Walrus Islands
to all those east of Hagemeister Island. Today four islands are recog-
nized as belonging to the Walrus group (Orth, 1967, p. 1027) but
Captain Cook did not actually hazard a guess as to the total number
since he observed very little of the coastline in this area.
23. Named by Korsakovskiy in 1819 for the Russian-American
Company ship which supported his explorations.
24. The present-day village of Ekuk.
25. After the establishment of Aleksandrovskiy Redoubt in
1819, Eskimos from the Kuskokwim River were attracted to the
vicinity of the post by the opportunity to trade furs.
26. The Russian word igra (performance) is used by northern
explorers for ceremonies held in the Eskimo kashgee, or ceremonial
27. For a more detailed discussion of subsistence patterns in the
Nushagak River region, see VanStone (1967, ch. VIII).
28. For a more detailed description of nineteenth century houses
in southwestern Alaska, see Petroff , (1884, p. 15) ; VanStone (1968,
pp. 233-252; 1970, pp. 20-33).
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 89
29. See footnote 16. The Yuk dialect was understood by Cux
speakers of Nunivak Island, but not by the Suk-speaking Koniag
Eskimos (Hammerich, 1958, p. 639).
30. Portions of the Koniag vocabulary were reprinted in contem-
porary French and German publications (see Pilling, 1887, p. 51).
31. All species of Pacific salmon make spawning runs into the
rivers of Bristol Bay. Khromchenko probably failed to notice this
because his visit preceded the big runs which commence in July.
32. Cape Mendenhall.
33. Etolin Strait. This body of water was named Cook Strait
by the expedition in 1821 after Captain James Cook. It later re-
ceived its present name at the suggestion of I. F. Krusenshtern,
the Russian circumnavigator (Orth, 1967, p. 320).
34. At the time of enumeration for the eleventh census in 1890,
there were several settlements in the Cape Mendenhall region and
five small villages with a combined population of 186 along the coast
between Cape Mendenhall and Cape Corwin (Porter, 1894, pp. Ill,
113). Presumably Khromchenko's visitors came from a village at
the southwestern end of Cape Mendenhall.
35. According to the eleventh federal census, the village of Koot
on Cape Etolin was the point of communication with the mainland.
At that time, trade was carried on mainly through the village of Tu-
nunak on Nelson Island (Porter, 1894, p. 116).
36. Lantis (1946, map 1, pp. 162-163) notes a large winter vil-
lage on the east coast of Cape Mendenhall near the mouth of the
bay, and a summer village at the very tip of the cape. Both were
important settlements about 50 to 60 years prior to her stay on the
island in 1940. Her name for the summer village closely approxi-
mates that of the settlement noted by Khromchenko (see fig. 5) .
37. See "Introduction," p. 15.
38. Nunivak Island kayaks are similar to those which Khrom-
chenko had already seen in use by the Togiagamiut and the Kus-
39. Khromchenko was correct in assuming that the Nuniwaga-
miut lacked formal political organization. As he suggests, recognized
leadership qualities included age and experience. Success in hunting
was the principal source of personal prestige and such skills gave a
man and his family wealth as well as recognized status in the com-
munity. These were all factors that contributed to the recognition
of an individual as a leader (Lantis, 1946, pp. 247-248).
90 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
40. Lantis (1946, map 1, p. 162) notes a village of this name,
which means "point of land," at the tip of Cape Corwin. It was a
summer settlement for the winter village of Paimiut, at one time
the largest community on the east side of the island (see Fig. 5) .
41. For a detailed description of Nuniwagamiut burial practices,
see Lantis (1946, pp. 227-228).
42. Heat for the traditional Eskimo baths in this area was sup-
plied by an open fire in the center of the kashgee. Khromchenko
may be referring to the water vapour bath involving heated rocks
and introduced throughout southwestern Alaska by the Russians
(Oswalt, 1963, p. 148; Zagoskin, 1967, p. 224).
43. Possibly Eskimos from the mouth of the Kuskokwim River
or from a village on the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta.
44. A river just north of Chinik heads in a small lake approxi-
mately five miles inland. There are, however, no islands anywhere
off the coast of Cape Corwin. It is possible that Khromchenko is
referring to a group of small islets just off shore from the next cape
to the north which is unnamed.
45. Nunivak Island, as well as the Pribilofs, consists largely of
undissected volcanic topography of Cenozoic age (Wahrhaftig, 1965,
46. Named in 1821 by Vasilev for Lieutenant A. P. Avinov who
was in command of the ship's boat.
47. Sighted in 1821 by Etolin and named for the British navi-
48. The Russian text here says NWE, but NNE is presumed to
49. Cape Manning.
50. Khromchenko apparently missed Hazen Bay, although he
observed the coastal hills extending to the northeast from Cape
Vancouver (see fig. 2) .
51. The original reads W by E.
52. It is possible that Khromchenko mistook Dall Point for Cape
Romanzof. There is no spit extending north of the latter, but one
does extend to the south and almost meets a similar spit reaching
north from Dall Point. Between these two narrow spits is the en-
trance to Igiak Bay (see fig. 2).
53. Named in 1778 by Captain Cook.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 91
54. This is Khromchenko's interpretation of the Eskimo word
kikiktapuk which simply means "big island" (Ray, 1971, p. 14).
55. This is the Eskimo name (Ktvigpak, "big river") for the lower
portion of the Yukon occupied by Eskimos. The Indian word for
the upper part is now applied to the entire river.
56. The nineteenth century village of Atuik ("bent point").
Slightly to the south of the site of Atuik is the present-day village
of Stebbins, the Eskimo name of which is Tapkak ("sandy beach")
(Ray, 1971, pp. 10, 21).
57. The raincoats to which Khromchenko refers were actually
made from the dried intestines of seals (see Nelson, 1899, pp. 36-37).
58. The inhabitants of Sledge Island (Ayak; see Ray, 1971, p.
12, footnote 21) in the Bering Sea off the coast of Seward Peninsula
approximately 25 miles west of Nome. These Eskimos served as
middlemen in the Siberian-Alaskan fur trade which flourished fol-
lowing the establishment of a trading post on the Kolyma River by
the Russians in 1789 (Wrangell, 1840, pp. 114-119; Ray, 1964, p. 86).
The island received its English name from Captain Cook in 1778.
59. Although a certain degree of cultural uniformity does exist
throughout the area explored by Khromchenko and Etolin, there is,
as previously noted (footnote 16), a sharp linguistic boundary at
60. Probably syphilis.
61. Differences between the kayaks of Nunivak Island and Nor-
ton Sound are described and illustrated by Nelson (1899, pp. 219-
220, pi. LXXIX, 2-3).
62. This contradicts Khromchenko's earlier statement (p. 57;
see footnote 31) that there were only loach in the Nushagak River.
63. Stuart Island is near the northern boundary of the Yupik
language. As previously noted (footnote 16), the inhabitants of
Nunivak Island speak Cux, a dialect of Yupik.
64. The Russian word used here is yurt which, in exploring ac-
counts dealing with Alaska, refers to both tents and houses. Gen-
erally, however, it refers to the semi-subterranean Eskimo house.
65. Named by Captain Cook in 1778.
66. Named by Captain Cook in 1778 who published it as Bes-
67. Possibly a misprint for half W. It has been impossible to
verify a sailing direction one and one-half.
92 FIELDIANA: ANTHROPOLOGY, VOLUME 64
68. Named by Khromchenko in 1821.
69. Probably Carolyn Island located in Golovnin Bay at 64°27'
70. The present-day village of Golovin. The name means "point
71. Possibly the now abandoned settlement of Igluchaik on the
west coast of Golovnin Bay (Ray, 1964, p. 70; map 1, p. 92).
72. The Eskimo word kuianna means "thank you."
73. Khromchenko is probably speaking here of the Niukluk
River, although he appears to have confused the name with the Tuk-
suk Channel which connects Grantley Harbor and Imuruk Basin.
The Niukluk is a major tributary of the Fish River which flows into
Golovnin Bay (see fig. 3).
74. A tributary of the Kuzitrin which flows into Imuruk Basin.
For a general discussion of settlements and travel in this area, see
Ray (1964, p. 69).
75. These visitors may have come from the now abandoned set-
tlement of Atnuk on the east coast of Cape Darby.
76. The Eskimo name for the present-day settlement of Wales,
and Cape Prince of Wales, is Kingigan. Nykhta is apparently a
wrong pronunciation. Khromchenko's informant is doubtless refer-
ring to the settlement.
77. The Kuzitrin River which flows into Imuruk Basin. The lat-
ter is connected to Grantley Harbour and Port Clarence by the pre-
viously-mentioned Tuksuk Channel.
78. This may be the first printed reference to the Punuk Islands.
They do not appear on a published map until 1849 (Orth, 1967, p.
79. As noted in the introduction, the vocabularies collected by
Khromchenko are valuable for studies of Eskimo dialectology. This
is particularly true of the St. Lawrence Island vocabulary which is
the earliest for that area. There are earlier word lists for the dialect
at Chaplino on the Siberian mainland and by comparing the two,
linguists can determine that the Chaplino and St. Lawrence dialects
were virtually identical in the 1820's. This information is significant
since the present population of the island is almost entirely new,
having come from Chaplino. Although nineteenth century epidemics
wiped out the bulk of the original St. Lawrence population, linguistic
continuity from the earliest historic period can be demonstrated. It
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 93
would appear that Tungan remembered the words well since they
can be recognized by a St. Lawrence Islander today, almost 150
years after they were collected.
Bibliographic sources listed at the end of the introduction and
also utilized in the preparation of the editorial comments are not re-
Hammerich, L. L.
1958. The western Eskimo dialects. Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Con-
gress of Americanists, 1956. Copenhagen.
1946. The social culture of the Nunivak Eskimo. Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc,
n.s., XXXV, pt. III. Philadelphia.
Orth, D. J.
1967. Dictionary of Alaska place names. Geol. Surv. Prof. Paper 567. Wash-
Oswalt, W. H.
1963. Mission of change in Alaska. Eskimos and Moravians on the Kuskok-
wim. San Marino, California.
1884. Report on population, industries, and resources of Alaska. Washington.
Pilling, J. C.
1887. BibUography of the Eskimo language. Washington.
Porter, R. P. (compiler)
1893. Report on population and resources of Alaska at the eleventh census:
Ray, D. J.
1964. Nineteenth century settlement and subsistence patterns in Bering Strait,
Arctic Anthro., 2, no. 2, pp. 61-94. Madison.
1971. Eskimo place-names in Bering Strait and vicinity. Names, 19, no. 1,
Sarafian, W. L.
1970. Russian-American Company employee policies and practices, 1799-
1867. Ph.D. dissertation, U.C.L.A., University Microfilms, Ann Arbor.
Sarychev, G. a.
1826. Atlas Severnoy chasti Vostochnago okeana, so stavlen v. chertezhnoy
Gosudarstvennago Admiraltezhkago Departamenta, s Novgyshikh opisey i
kart, .... St. Petersburg.
Tebenkov, M. D.
1852. Atlas severozapadnykh beregov Ameriki ot Beringova proliva do mysa
Korrientes ostrovov Aleutskikh c prisovokupleniem nekortorykh miest Sever-
ovostochnago beregov Ameriki, ostrovov Aleutskikh i nekotorykh drugikh
miest Severnago Tikhogo okeana. St. Petersburg.
VANSTONE: KHROMCHENKO'S EXPLORATIONS 95
1965. Physiographic divisions of Alaska. Geo!. Surv. Prof. Paper 482. Wash-
Wrangell, F. p.
1840. Narrative of an expedition to the Polar Sea in the years 1820, 1821, 1822
& 1823. London.