Caricature representing Chamisso at the North pole by E.T.A. Hofmann 1815

Adelbert von Chamisso

Remarks and Opinions on A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Beering's Straits

Kamtschatka, The Aleutian Islands, and Beering's Strait

We have cast a look aver the waters of the Great Ocean, and its shores, and viewed he islands situated in it, between the tropics, from the Indies, as from the mother country to which they belong, and whence organic nature and man have spread over them.

We now turn from those gardens of pleasure to the drear north, in the same ocean basin. Tho songis past. A clouded sky receivves us on the very limits of the northern monssoon. We pentrate through the gloomy veil, which eternally hovers over these seas, and shores not shaded by a tree, inhospitably frown upon us, with their snow-crowded summits.

We shudder to find man also settled here! (...)

link to A Voyage on

Steller's examination of a Sea cow July 12th 1742 on Bering Island

Georg Wilhelm Steller

De Bestiis Marinis, or, The Beasts of the Sea (1751)



(...) Among animals the seal (phoca) is the only one which lives not only in every part of the ocean, but in the Baltic Sea, the Caspian Sea, and lakes which have no communication with the sea, as in Lakes Baikal and Oron; it is found everywhere at all times of the year. Notwithstanding, this difference occurs, that the ocean seal (Phoca oceanica) is more common and is distinguished in color from all the rest; it is covered with muddy gray fur, and on the back of its body it has a large spot that is chestnut colored and covers one-third of the whole hide. Now, I divide seals into three varieties on the basis of size. (1.) The largest, which is greater in size than a bull, grows only in the eastern ocean from the degrees 56 to 59 north latitude, and is called by the Kamchatkans “Lachtak.” (2) Those of medium size are all as large as a tiger, and are marked with many smaller spots. (3) The smallest ones — the ocean seal, for example — are found in the Baltic Sea, as well as in the port of Archangel, in Sweden, Norway, America, and Kamchatka, and in fresh-water lakes. They are monochroüs; that is, of one color; for example, those found in Baikal are of a silvery gray color. If we inquire why this sort of amphibian alone lives in every ocean and lake, I reply, because it lives upon a sort of food which is to be had everywhere in the world, and upon flesh. But the case of the sea cow (Manatee) is different. It feeds only upon certain sorts of sea weeds not found everywhere, and on account of the structure of its body can not live everywhere even in shallow places. But the sea otter, although it lives upon crustaceans and shellfish, can not find this sort of food everywhere beneath a certain depth of water on account of its closed foramen ovale; and hence it inhabits the rocky, rugged, shallow shoals of America, of the islands in the channel, and of the land of Kamchatka. The sea lion and the sea bear are migratory animals, and seek the recesses of the sea and uninhabited islands in the same way as geese and swans, so that there they may get rid of their fat, copulate, and give birth, and when that is done they return home in the same way as birds.(...)


The Manatee


(...) Because of the food they eat they are called by the inhabitants, in their language, “Kapustnik” (Kraut Esser; weed eaters); this I learned after my return in 1742. Now, I must tell the uses to which the parts of this animal are put. The skins, which are very thick, firm, and tough, are used by the Americans, according to Hernandes, for the soles of shoes and for belts. I understand that the Tschuktschi use the skins for boats; that they stretch it with sticks and use it in the same way as the Koriaks use the skins of the largest sort of seals, called “Lachtak.” (...)

Link to De Bestiis Marinis