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Voyages: Scientific Circumnavigations 1679 to 1859
Kotzebue’s Expedition 1815-1818

Portrait of the Inhabitants of Kotzebue Sound

from Entdeckungs-Reise in de Süd See und nach der Berings-Strasse zur Erforschung einer nordöstlichen Durchfahrt:
Weimar: Hoffmann, 1821.



Kotzebue described in his journal the dress of the Eskimos, and noted that

"they have holes on each side of the mouth, in which they wear morse-bones [walrus], ornamented with blue glass beads…of the same kind as those worn in Asia, which proves that they must be in commercial intercourse with that continent."

The naturalists for the expedition were Frederick Enshscholtz and Adelbert von Chamisso. While they and Kotzebue were exploring the surrounding terrain of the sound, a group of Eskimos brought their canoes ashore nearby.

"Five of them, each with eight to ten men, all armed with lances and bows, soon landed near us."

The crew turned
"to meet the Americans, who, on seeing us approach, sat down, like Turks, in a large circle on the ground, by which they meant to manifest their friendly intentions."

Kotzebue distributed tobacco, which was well received.


To avoid the icy waters above North America, explorers hoped to find a passage through the continent from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Otto von Kotzebue of Russia embarked on an expedition to explore and map the interior of the northwest region, seeking a waterway east to Baffin Bay. He placed his hopes on an unexplored inlet that appeared on Cook’s map only as a break in the coastline above the Bering Strait. When he sailed into its mouth and saw that it was of great extent, he thought that perhaps
"fate had chosen me to be the discoverer. I felt my heart oppressed; and at the same time, an impatience, which would not let me rest…"

He was disappointed to find that his channel ended in a sound (to which he gave his name), but he compared it to Hudson’s Bay in its potential as a trade center to benefit the Russians, as the eastern bay profited the English.

Kotzebue: Page 1 of 6.
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