Bellinsgauzen, Faddei F.

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Bellinsgauzen, Faddei F.

(b. Arensburg, on the island of Oesel, Russia [now Kingissepp, Sarema, Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic], 30 August 1779; d. Kronstadt, Russia, 25 January 1852)

navigation, oceanography.

Bellinsgauzen began his naval career in 1789 as a cadet in Kronstadt. From 1803 to 1806 he participated in the first round-the-world voyage by a Russian ship, the Nadezhda, under the command of Ivan F. Kruzenstern. Following this trip, and until July 1819, Bellinsgauzen commanded various ships on the Baltic and Black seas. From 1819 to 1821 he headed a Russian Antarctic expedition, then commanded various naval units in the Mediterranean, Black, and Baltic seas. From 1839 until the end of his life Bellinsgauzen was the military governor of Kronstadt. He married in 1826 and had four daughters. Bellinsgauzen was also one of the founders of the Russian Geographic Society in 1845.

Bellinsgauzen’s fame is a result of the discoveries made on the expedition he led to the Antarctic. When the Russian government decided to send an expedition to study the Antarctic, he was designated commander because of his solid knowledge of physics, astronomy, hydrography, and cartography, and because of his wide naval experience. He also was responsible for practically all the maps of the Kruzenstern expedition. During his Black Sea service he had determined the coordinates of the main points of the eastern shore and had corrected several inaccuracies on the map of the shoreline.

Two three-masted vessels, the Vostok and the Mirny, were outfitted for the trip to the Antarctic. Bellinsgauzen commanded the Vostok; the commander of the Mirny was Mikhail P. Lazarev. The expedition was to survey South Georgia Island, sail to the east of the Sandwich Islands, go as cose to the pole as possible, and not turn back unless it met impassable obstacles.

The Vostok and the Mirny left Kronstadt on 15 July 1819. In December the expedition sighted the south shore of South Georgia Island, and at the beginning of January 1820 it came upon the Traverse Islands. Reaching the Sandwich Islands seven days later, the expedition found not a single island, as Cook had proposed, but several islands. Naming them the South Sandwich Islands, the expedition headed south and, in spite of ice barriers, on 27 January 1820, near the coast of Princess Martha’s Land at a latitude of 69°25´ (according to Bellinsgauzen’s report of 20 April 1820 to the Russian minister) came within twenty miles of the Antarctic mainland, the shoreline of which was plotted. Bellinsgauzen wrote on this day that ice, which appeared “like white clouds in the snow that was then falling.” was sighted. This was the first view of the earth’s sixth continent, and on the navigational map he noted, “Sighted solid ice.” Lazarev, who arrived at approximately the same place several hours later, wrote:

... we reached latitude 69°23´, there to meet continuous ice of an immense height; watched from the crosstrees on that beautiful evening... ice ranged as far as the eye could see; but we could not enjoy that wonderful sight for very long because the sky soon went dull again and it started to snow as usual. From this place we proceeded to the east, venturing at every opportunity to the south, but meeting each time an ice-covered continent before we could reach 70° [Dokumenty, I, 150].

On 1 February, Bellinsgauzen’s expedition was about thirty miles from the icy continent, at latitude 69°25´ south and longitude 1°11´ west. The third leaf of the navigational map shows the ice, which the expedition again approached on 17–18 February. In a report from Port Jackson [Sydney], Australia, to the war minister on 20 April 1820, Bellinsgauzen wrote of these approaches:

Here behind ice fields of smaller ice and islands, a continent of ice is seen, the borders of which are broken off perpendicularly and which ranges as far as we could see. The flat ice islands are situated close to that continent rising toward the south... and show clearly that they are wreckage of that continent, for their borders and surface are like the continent [Dvukratnye izyskania (“Twofold Investigations”), 3rd ed., p. 37].

The expedition later discovered a series of islands in the Pacific. In January 1821 the southernmost point of the trip was reached (latitude 69°53´ south, longitude 92°19´ west) and an island (which was named Peter the Great) and a coastline (which was named Alexander I Coast) were sighted.

Bellinsgauzen expressed his firm conviction that there was an ice continent at the South Pole: “I call the great ice rising to form sloping mountains as one proceeds to the South Pole the inveterate ice, provided it is 4° cold in the midst of the most perfect summer day. I suppose it is no less cold farther to the south, and thus I conclude that the ice ranges over the Pole and must be stationary...” (ibid., p. 420).

In 751 sailing days, of which 122 were spent below the sixtieth parallel, the Vostok and the Mirny covered over 55,000 miles. Besides discovering Antarctica and sailing around it, one of the great achievements of the Bellinsgauzen-Lazarev expedition was the first description of large oceanic regions adjoining the ice continent. It discovered twenty-nine islands and one coral reef and conducted valuable oceanographic and other scientific observations. A test of the water at a depth of 402 meters, using a bathometer with a thermometer placed inside, showed higher specific weight and lower temperature proportional to depth. The climatic peculiarities of the Antarctic as recorded by Bellinsgauzen are generally in agreement with modern observations. The generalization concerning the temperatures of the equatorial and tropic zones of the Pacific is also important; “Here I ought to note that the greatest heat is not to be expected directly at the equator, where the passing southern trade wind refreshes the air. The greatest heat is in a zone of calm between the southern and the northern trade winds” (ibid., p. 110).

Bellinsgauzen made the first attempt to describe and classify the Antarctic ice and determined that the Kanarsky flow is a branch of the Floridsky. He explained the origin of coral islands and on the basis of 203 observations of compass variations determind with great precision the position of the South Magnetic Pole at that time—latitude 76° south, longitude 142° 30´ west. He wrote of this in a letter to Kruzenstern, asking him to pass on to Gauss, at the latter’s request, his table of compass variations. This table was published in Leipzig by Gauss (1840).

A sea in the Antarctic was named for Bellinsgauzen, as well as a cape in the southern part of Sakhalin Island and an island in the Tuamotus.


Bellinsgauzen’s account of the Antarctic expedition is Dvukratnye izyskania v Yuzhnom Ledovitom okeane i plavanie vokrug sveta v prodolzhenie 1819, 20 i 21 godov, sovershennoe na shlyupakh “Vostoke” i “Mirnom” (“Twofold Investigations in the Antarctic Ocean and a Voyage Around the World During 1819, 1820 and 1821, Completed on the Sloops Vostok and Mirny”; St. Petersburg, 1821; 3rd ed., Moscow, 1961).

Works on Bellinsgauzen are M. I. Belov, ed., Pervaya russkaya antarkticheskaya ekspeditsia 1819–1821 gg. i ee otchetnaya navigatsionnaya karta (“The First Russian Antarctic Expedition 1819–1821 and Its Navigational Map”; Leningrad, 1963), and “Slavu pervogo tochnogo vychislenia mestopolozhenia yuzhnogo magnitnogo polyusa Ross dolzhen razdelit c Bellinsgauzenom” (“Ross Must Share With Bellinsgauzen the Fame for the First Precise Calculation of the Location of the South Magnetic Pole”). in Nauka i zhizn (“Science and Life,” 1966), no. 8, 21–23; “Geograficheskie nablyudenia v Antarktike ekspeditsy Kuka 1772–1775 gg. i Bellinsgauzena-Lazareva 1819–1820–1821 gg.” (“Geographic Observations in the Antarctic of the Cook Expedition, 1772–1775, and the Bellinsgauzen-Lazarev Expedition, 1819–1821”), in Doklady Mezhduvedomstvennoy Komissy po izucheniyu Antarktiki za 1960 g. (“Reports of the Joint Commission for the Study of Antarctica, 1960”; Moscow, 1961), pp. 7-23; and M. P. Lazarev, Dokumenty, I (Moscow, 1952), 150.

Ivan A. Fedoseyev

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Bellinsgauzen, Faddei F.

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