Chirikov, Alexzei Ilich

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(17031748), naval officer and explorer.

An instructor at St. Petersburg's Naval Academy, Alexei Ilich Chirikov was selected in 1725 to be one of two assistants to Vitus Bering, recently appointed by Peter the Great to travel to Kamchatka and, from there, determine whether Asia and America were united.

Bering's first Kamchatka expedition (17281730) was criticized for not having proven conclusively that Asia and America were not physically linked. Indeed, Chirikov had disagreed with Bering on the question of when the expedition should turn back, arguing that further exploration was needed. In response, Bering proposed an ambitious series of voyages and surveys that, together, became the Great Northern Expedition. Bering undertook a second survey of Russia's northeasternmost waters. His second-in-command was Chirikov.

In the summer of 1740, Bering's ships, the St. Peter and St. Paul captained by Bering and Chirikov, respectivelyset sail for Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. From there, the ships departed in June 1741. Shortly after, the ships separated and never reestablished contact. The crew of the St. Peter sighted Alaska in July, then wintered on the isle now called Bering Island. Bering himself perished; the survivors returned to Petropavlovsk in the fall of 1742.

In July 1741, Chirikov and the crew of the St. Paul discovered Alaska's Alexander Archipelago. Short of food and fresh water, the St. Paul returned to Kamchatka in October 1741, having lost eight sailors. The following May, Chirikov sailed east again, searching for Bering and his crew. Unfortunately, the St. Paul sailed past Bering Island. In June, after exploring the Aleutians, Chirikov turned back once more. In August 1742, Chirikov sailed into Petropavlovskonly a few days before the survivors of the St. Peter voyage returned.

For his participation in the Great Northern Expedition, Chirikov was promoted to the rank of captain-commander in 1745. In 1746 he helped to compile new Pacific maps, based on data the Expedition had gathered.

See also: bering, vitus jonassen


Fisher, Raymond Henry. (1977). Bering's Voyages. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Neatby, L. H. (1973). Discovery in Russian and Siberian Waters. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Urness, Carol Louise. (1987). Bering's First Expedition. New York: Garland.

John McCannon