By: Thomas Bowen
Date: 1775 (Published) London
Dimensions: 6.75 x 9.25 inches (17.2 x 23.5 cm)
A rare and early map of the Bering Strait and Aleutian Islands featuring the island of "Alaschka," that was published just three years before Captain James Cook visited the region in 1778.
The map depicts the entire region of the North Atlantic from south of Kamchatka to the Arctic waters north of the Bering Strait itself. It features many islands, names settlements and towns, depicts river systems, shows mountainous regions, and shows a large portion of NE Asia along with a smaller portion of NW North America. Bowen’s words ‘New Discovered Islands’ are used to refer to islands discovered by and known to Europeans, their existence had long been known to indigenous peoples and other earlier explorers. History of the exploration and mapping of this part of the world is fascinating.
In late winter of 1724, Russian Tsar Peter the Great organized an exploratory voyage to the area to ascertain once and for all whether or not a land bridge connected Asia and North America, to explore NE Siberia and its offshore, and to find a safe route to North America. Peter appointed Danish sailor Vitus Jonassen Bering, a Lutheran captain who spent most of his career in service to the Russian state, to take command of this voyage, aka the First Kamchatka Expedition.
Peter signed the orders for this expedition just weeks before his death in early February 1725, and on handing the orders to Admiral Pyotr Apraksin to give to Bering, the Tsar was quoted as saying that once the Motherland had been protected, glory through the arts and sciences should be brought to its hinterlands. He was confident that Russian efforts would be more fruitful than those of earlier European expeditions which had attempted to reach the western American coast from the Pacific side. The Tsar’s specific instructions stated that Bering was to travel to Russia’s east coast and once there to build one or two ships, to travel north to learn where the coast ended, and to search for any European controlled cities. He was then to make a map and return home.
Finally in the summer of 1728, Bering sailed along the Russian coast from Kamchatka to the Arctic Ocean through the waterway which subsequently came to bear his name, the Bering Strait. The findings of this first expedition were inconclusive due to ice and bad weather preventing him from proving the presence or absence of a continuous land connection between Asia and America.
Having failed to accomplish Peter’s goals in the first expedition, another was mounted. The Second Kamchatka Expedition started in 1833 and was finally completed in 1843. In July 1741 Bering finally sighted Mount Saint Elias in southern Alaska, and claimed the entire region for Russia, far to the south and east of the Bering Strait.
In this voyage it was finally confirmed that Asia and Alaska are separated by water. Unfortunately, Bering’s vessel wrecked and Bering himself died with many others on the island that is now named after him and appears on the map. The survivors who did return, constructed a small boat from wreckage of their ship. They reported land and islands fantastically rich in fur-bearing animals.
Later exploration of the area resulted in indigenous peoples such as the Aleuts being granted Russian citizenship. Finally in 1778, Captain Cook explored and described the eastern Aleutians, correcting some errors of earlier navigators, and adding a wealth of information regarding the area.
Condition: Map is in A condition with a strong impression on clean paper.
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