Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Rim of Red Water Ch XII Russians establish a settlement


An early sketch of Shelikhov's settlement in Three Saints Bay, Kodiak Island.


By Tim Jones
Copyright © 2019 Tim Jones
One day we tossed an octopus to the otter who's always hanging around the harbor looking for shrimp. Now, this octopus was dead and had turned kind of pink and purple, but if you could have filmed it no one would have known the way the otter rolled around in the water getting that octopus settled on its belly; it would have been one of those Walt Disney animal battles to the death. When he finally got the octopus on his belly the way he wanted it, he started eating from the tip of a tentacle in, floating out of the harbor with all that lacy pink and lavender draped over him like he was wearing something from Victoria's Secret. — an Alaska shrimp fisherman

As news of Cook's third voyage spread across Europe and the great navigator's influence along with the body of knowledge he had gained spread with the men who'd sailed with him, apprehension grew in the fur trade. Though Russians had helped Cook and he was considered favorably at the court in St. Petersburg, still the thought that Englishmen had touched in Russian fur country created some concern within Catherine the Great's government.
Already the court knew the proximity of Spanish colonies to Alaska shores and now rumblings were coming from the French court to send an expedition following Cook perhaps to interject France into the race after the fur trade. The rest of the world was following the Russians closing in on those people of the Aleutians and Alaska, who had managed to remain isolated for so long. The time had come for the Russian government to take action to protect the discoveries in North America. 
In 1881, they capitalized the Northeastern Company. The new company differed from any other in the fur trade in several ways. Principal among these was a lasting enterprise rather than just one voyage. All of the previous partnerships had been formed to finance a ship and its voyage. The new Northeastern Co. was chartered for ten years to cover several trips to the Aleutians and Alaska. Secondly, the company planned to establish settlements in the new country. These settlements would serve as permanent hunting stations, which would limit some of the high overhead of outfitting ships for long hunting voyages. If hunters could be stationed permanently along the coast, ships would only have to bring provisions and take home furs rather than spend years at sea trading, hunting and keeping themselves going. In the process, Russia would begin to colonize rather than simply exploit the newly visited lands.
The proposal did not go unnoticed in St. Petersburg where, even so far removed from the Eastern Sea, Catherine's government was feeling the encroachment of other nations into the Russian territories. The European courts at the time were nothing if not filled with intrigues and spying on each other, and Catherine's court may have been one of the most complicated. The Spanish embassy to Russia, in particular, took a great interest in the Alaska activities. After all, though a direct connection had yet to be explored, the Russians were expanding to the east and probably south toward Spanish occupied areas in California. The Spanish wanted no encroachments into their territory and as information passed from Catherine's court back to Spain and then to the New World, the colonists in Mexico and California started looking toward sending ships north to establish territory and find out just how far the Russians had advanced toward New Spain. Catherine, of course, also knew of the Spanish information-gathering and wanted to protect Russian claims on that far coast. The proposal to establish Russian settlements along the coast, and at no cost to the treasury, must have pleased her government. 
The time had come for the Russian government to take action to protect the discoveries in North America. In 1780 Catherine issued a Declaration of Armed Neutrality for the Eastern Ocean and laid out boundaries of Russian influence in the lands to the east of Siberia. Along with this the government began planning a defense posture in the discoveries and at least gave voice to the idea of establishing fortresses at strategic points along the coast. Still, Catherine’s navy was occupied with Sweden in the Baltic Sea and a large portion of her army had to be garrisoned along the uneasy Turkish border, so she couldn't commit a military presence to the Eastern Ocean.
Into this atmosphere came Ivan Golikov and Grigori Shelikhov with their petition to found the Northeastern Company. The idea of permanent Russian settlements in Alaska sponsored by private funding rather than the treasury appealed to Catherine and her advisors. Here at least was the beginning of some sort of defense for the new lands and the possibility of establishing a legitimate Russian claim to the discoveries. Though the partners didn't ask for exclusive hunting rights in Alaska and none were granted, the establishment of a company for the period of ten years, and the notion to establish settlements opened the way for Shelikhov and his partners to return at some future date with a new petition to grant such rights.
Golikov and Shelikhov quickly began gathering investors in their company and commissioned the construction of three ships at Okhotsk. These ships were completed in the spring of 1783 under the direction of Shelikhov himself and they sailed August 16 of that year for the Aleutian Islands. Shelikhov joined the expedition aboard the flagship Three Saints. Unlike his predecessors in the business end of the trade, Shelikhov wanted to learn first hand what the country was like and he carried with him aboard the three ships enough supplies to establish a colony. Perhaps to punctuate his belief in the expedition and the idea of colonizing, he took his wife Natalia along on the voyage.  

Friday, July 12, 2019

Rim of Red Water CH XI Cook's crews bring the otter trade to China

An early chart shows the entrance into Canton  from the South China Sea 
on China's south coast.



By Tim Jones
Copyright © 2019 Tim Jones

The sea otter is the largest member of the weasel family. That's right, even bigger than the wolverine. Males easily grow to 80 pounds at maturity and some have weighed out at 100.

     Following the death of Captain James Cook, William Clerke reorganized the ships' companies, installing the American John Gore as captain of the Discovery and elevating various lieutenants and mates to fill vacancies, then set out to follow Cook's plan for the remainder of the voyage.On the evening of February 22, 1779, Clerke sailed from that sad bay in what Cook called the Sandwich Islands, intending to fix the positions of the islands more accurately and then sail north for Avacha Bay and Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka coast. At the end of March, Clerke turned the ships north, sighted land April 23 and toward the end of the month found the ice clearing at Avacha.  Separated from the Discovery in a storm, the Resolution sailed into Avacha Bay to within a mile of Petropavlovsk April 29. The Discovery followed May 1.
Clerke found the Russian garrison at Petropavlovsk debilitated by the long winter and the scurvy that had come with it. The magistrate there had sent Cook's letter transferred to Russia through the otter trader at Unalaska, Gerassim Ismailov, to the seat of the Kamchatkan government across the peninsula at Bolsheryetsk and the expedition had been expected, though the sight of two armed warships, large by the standards of the shittik, had alarmed the Petropavlovsk community.
Clerke sent three of his men, led by John Gore, overland to visit the governor, a Major Behm, at his capital, while the rest of his men set to the seemingly endless chores of repairing ships and gathering provisions. Clerke had maintained Cook's diet regimen, one that had successfully kept his crews from contracting scurvy and now with the help of his ship's surgeon managed to renew the health of the Russian garrison.
Behm, on learning of the mission from Gore and King, offered his full services in the interest of discovery. Also at this time he learned of the Chukchi peoples' acceptance of Cook as Russian and reacting favorably to his kind treatment had made friendly overtures to the Russians. Behm called for cattle and flour and tobacco to be delivered without seeking payment to the English ships and then set out himself with Gore and King on their return to Petropavlovsk to meet Clerke.
At that time Behm was about to relinquish his command and return to St. Petersburg. On learning this and having seen the reception the major gave him and his men, Clerke entrusted him with Cook's journal, some of the expedition's new charts, his own journal continuing Cook's, and a long letter detailing the death of the captain. Behm carried these across the Asian continent to St. Petersburg and from there they were delivered to the British Admiralty, the first news of the voyage bringing the report of Cook's awful demise.
By early June most of the repairs that could be effected had been completed. Still, both ships leaked badly, particularly the Resolution and rigging failed regularly. The worst, perhaps, was the chronometer, so important to achieving accurate longitude, finally failed and though repaired a couple of times, it never served with accuracy again.
North once again  
Clerke sailed from Petropavlovsk in mid June, passed through the Bering Strait by July 6 and pushed north. He found the ice edge farther south than the expedition had encountered it the previous year with Cook. He managed to sail to 70 degrees, 33 minutes north, about 11 miles short of the previous attempt. The ice was thick enough to the east that he couldn't penetrate to the American shore and Clerke tried for Asia hoping to find an opening that would allow him to go farther north, and perhaps east.
As time passed, the disease that had been plaguing Clerke since the Indian Ocean two years earlier gradually took a greater hold, confining him to more and more hours in his berth. Though he maintained his command, Clerke obviously was weakening. Also he was coming to realize he could gain nothing beyond the voyage of 1778.
His last attempt at the ice came July 27 but when the Discovery took such a battering from the floes that the ice knocked off most of her sheathing, Clerke abandoned the effort and turned south. July 30, 1779, the ships passed through the Bering Strait again heading south. They passed the Commander Islands to the east and then turned for the coast and Petropavlovsk. By August 15, Clerke had weakened to the point where he had to assign command of the Resolution to Lt. King. The ships continued southwest toward Petropavlovsk and made their landfall August 22.  Clerke died the next day.
Both ships put into Petropavlovsk Harbor the 24th, the men at once saddened by the loss of Clerke but lifted by the sights of beauty of Kamchatka in the full bloom of summer. John Gore assumed command of the expedition and the Resolution. King went to the Discovery as its new captain.
Five days after arriving in the harbor, the ship's crews gathered for yet another funeral and they buried William Clerke on a hillside above Petropavlovsk. Around his grave his shipmates planted a ring of willows.
The ships remained at Petropavlovsk until the end of summer, continuing the endless rounds of repairs and restocking for the voyage home. The crews enjoyed the hospitality of their Russian hosts. The Russians brought them cattle for the voyage and helped gather other provisions as well. Merchants from Bolsheretsk learning the men had sea otter furs, came to trade. They paid good prices for the furs, but the sailors soon found their rubles couldn't buy what wasn't available in this outpost of the Russian empire and they had to content themselves with money rather than the gin and tobacco they wanted. Among the Russians who showed interest in the expedition was a navigator named Potap Zaikov. Already experienced in the fur trade, having sailed for both Trapeznikov and Shelikhov, and more astute at the intricacies of seafaring than most of his promyshlennik colleagues, Zaikov spent as much time as he could with Gore, making tracings of Cook's charts and questioning the officers at length about what they had seen. Zaikov, like Shelikhov had seen the decline in the fur trade and wanted as much information as he could gather about new areas he might try.
The interest of the Russians in the otter furs didn't escape many in the crew, nor did the prices offered. Three in particular took a great interest in the trade. These included the American marine sergeant John Ledyard and two ship's officers, George Dixon and Nathanial Portlock, three men who would figure in future British escapades in the North Pacific.
Sea otter trade opens China at Macao and Canton
By early October leaves flying from the trees and snow high in the nearby hills set the sailors looking south and October 10 under the command of John Gore, the ships set sail for home. They followed the coast of Asia generally to the southwest, landing at Macao, China, December 4. There they learned England was at war with their American colonies and with France, and this news doubled their anxiety about the voyage home.  
Gore sent King up the Bocca Tigris river to a British factory at Canton in an attempt to negotiate for supplies and there King learned the French and Americans had exempted Cook's ships from molestation in the interest of science.
The Chinese had established a complicated system for trade. Newcomers encountered that system on arrival at Macao which had been a Portuguese colony since 1557. An incoming ship had to go there first to employ a pilot, a linguist, and a compradore who purveyed the ship and crew provisions. Only then would a ship be allowed to proceed upriver to trade at Canton. King left the two ships at Macao and went to gather supplies in Canton, while the sailors on the two ships began a lively trade with Chinese merchants who approached them at Macao. They sold many more of their sea otter furs and at even higher prices than in Petropavlovsk. Though some sea otter furs may have preceded them, or at least news of the fur had filtered down from Kiakhta, this more than likely was the first trade of sea otter fur at Canton, the only seaport open to foreigners. All the furs from Russian traders had to pass through the border at Kiakhta a thousand miles away, and probably none of the merchants in Canton had had a chance to buy any. The Chinese looking at this rich, new fur, offered tremendous prices and the sailors made a good deal more at Macao than they had at Kamchatka. Trade was so lucrative two sailors deserted at Macao and the opinion of the rest of the crew was that they planned to make their fortunes in the fur trade.
British ships under the East India Company flag traded constantly at Canton and held the charter for the entire Pacific Ocean. Always looking for new commodities, company officials could not have ignored the brisk trade for the sea otter furs from the Discovery and Resolution at Macao.  It's possible the two deserters joined the company and led its ships to future trading along the American Coast. At the very least, the English sailors piqued the interest of the southern Chinese in sea otter fur.
After more than a month, the ships finally sailed from Macao January 13, 1780. They again rounded the Cape of Good Hope and returned to the Thames River and London August 22,1780, an event that to their homeland was anticlimactic, barely noticed by the public. All news of the voyage had preceded them in the parcels they sent through Russia and by other letters sent from Canton and Cape Town. The men of the Resolution and Discovery obviously were joyous on their return, but a hero's welcome had passed with official excitement already over since the news had reached England. For most, the voyage terminated with little fanfare. They had returned, but without Cook and without Clerke.
Cook's voyage was to have far-reaching effects in the fur trade along the northwest American coast and into Alaska. At the time Cook reached Nootka Sound in 1778, sea otters ranged all the way from Baja California in the south, around the north Pacific Rim through Alaska and the Aleutians to the Commander Islands and then south again into the Kuriles and even the northern islands of Japan. Except for those in the Aleutians, the otters had been relatively unmolested by the hunters' guns. But as word of Cook's discoveries spread and the men who sailed with him took their dreams of riches in the fur trade to others, a new assault on the otters began. In addition his crews had opened a lucrative new market for the fur with the southern Chinese. Forces began gathering, not only in England, but in Spain and France, the newly emergent United States and even India for a new assault on the otters that would spread blood on the water around the entire North Pacific coastal rim from California to Japan.



Next: Russia feels the rest of the world closing in

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Two weeks with Crazy Horse, a lifetime memory

Ed "Crazy Horse" Gurtler" with Leslie Mead at Ed's Innoko River Lodge 1978
Photo by Raine Hall Rawlins in the book "Iditarod, The First Ten years."
     Edward Gurtler Sr. was born on the North Fork of the Innoko River in 1933. He died in his home in Wasilla April 3, 2019. He spent his early years hunting, fishing and trapping helping his parents support the family. After graduating high school in Holy Cross Ed joined the Army in the early 1950s and attained the rank of sergeant. After military service he went to work as a heavy equipment mechanic and operator and helped to build much of the state's infrastructure including the distant early warning system (DEW line) and the Trans Alaska pipeline. Ed owned and operated a hunting lodge on the Innoko River for many years. An avid bush pilot he flew thousands of miles across the state in his Cessna 170. He also was an accomplished musician and singer, pilot, mechanic and big game guide. Ed "Crazy Horse" Gurtler's memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday, July 14 at VFW Post 9356, 301 W. Lake View Ave., Wasilla, Alaska

     I knew this man for only about two weeks in 1979 but our time together was so intense it left me with memories lasting forty years.
     I had set out to write a book about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race but that effort stalled when the people I was working for refused to fund a trip along the trail during the race. By pure chance I met a man who offered to fund the whole project even hire an airplane and pilot.
     He gave me a check on the spot but then kind of disappeared and as race time approached I had heard nothing and began to worry. Somehow just days before the race he let me know he had hired a pilot but the man couldn't do it until two days after the start. So, if you will, on a wing and a prayer, I set out to cover the first couple of days somehow. I bothered the race people until they got me on a flight with Larry Thompson who at that time was the main Iditarod supply pilot. This is how I was introduced to Iditarod flying. Standing on the tarmac I watched him land at Anchorage's airport. Larry stepped down from the airplane and opened the cargo hatch. He reached in and pulled out a chain and 12 dogs piled out. They'd been dropped at early checkpoints. I asked him what he did if they started fighting in the airplane and matter-of-fact said, "I just turn the airplane upside down, settles 'em right down." 
     We skipped checkpoint by checkpoint up the trail and over Rainy Pass and he dropped me on the far side of the Alaska Range at the Farewell checkpoint where I was supposed to meet my pilot. I told the folks there that's what I was doing and someone asked who the pilot was and I said Ed Gurtler. Someone in that room, and I couldn't tell you who, said "oh you're flying with Crazy Horse?"
    An airplane flying upside down with fighting dogs bouncing around the cabin and now a pilot named Crazy Horse. For a moment I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
     He didn't make it that day so I spent it watching and talking with mushers resting at the checkpoint, slept uncomfortably on a floor and woke the next day to a clear blue sky a condition folks in McGrath later told me they called "severe clear," and shortly, the engine of a small airplane approaching. Ed Gurtler climbed down and we shook hands and as quickly as that we were both back in the airplane and climbing into that sky. We headed out across the Farewell Burn, a huge area that a wildfire a couple of years before had left nothing standing. In short time we came upon a dog team moving across the burn. 
    The pilot asked me if I wanted to take a picture and I said, "sure." Immediately the airplane turned into a screaming dive plummeting earthward while I watched in my viewfinder until I couldn't take any more, snapped the shutter, dropped the camera and grabbed this little bar of steel in the overhead. The pilot whose Crazy Horse moniker had become more literal pulled up and when he leveled off he gave me a sideways glance and asked, "Want another one?"
   Probably shaking, I assured him that was enough and we flew on. When I finally released my handhold I realized probably I had just been tested and found myself hoping I'd passed. As we flew along over Alaska, I realized something else too. I had always been a nervous flyer but now inwardly had to laugh at myself for in my fear grabbing onto the very thing that was trying to kill me was a useless action. From then on for the rest of my life, I never feared flying with my new-found fatalistic view.
    We stopped for a bit in Nikolai and spent the better part of two days in McGrath.
    From there we flew to Ophir and stopped for a few hours, but with the leaders approaching the midway point at Iditarod we quickly headed off to the northwest. When we reached the old town, we circled a couple of times but then decided to fly on toward the Yukon River. Instead we flew into our next adventure. Very quickly after we left Iditarod the weather began to deteriorate and it wasn't long before we found ourselves in serious whiteout conditions. Over the course of our flights so far I told him I was a boat captain and right there he asked me about my navigation skills. Apparently convinced, he handed me a chart, pointed to where he thought we were and asked me to watch below and try to follow our progress on the chart and also point out any high points in the terrain. With that settled he brought the airplane down to treetop level and began to follow the curves of a frozen stream below us. I remembered a flash of something I had learned in Boy Scouts, "when lost follow water downstream." I figured that's what Crazy Horse was doing, following a stream that looked from the chart like it ran into the Iditarod River near the abandoned town. But, as we progressed I got the feeling he was also looking for a place to land.
      In time I pointed out a higher hill to our right and how the stream curved around the base. He smiled. He followed the stream around the hill and there it was nestled against the bank, the old gold rush town of Iditarod. Before we landed he asked if I wanted a photo from the air and I said it would be difficult in the flat light. He picked up on that term, I would learn later. Once again safely on the ground I took a few tentative steps and then went to work. Ed found a couple of friends in an occupied building and spent the day there.
    In the morning I received an education in Bush flying. Think about starting your own car on a cold morning. Maybe you had a plug-in engine heater or if worse comes to worse a way to jump start it. Now picture the same situation with an airplane on a slough of the Iditarod River in one of the least inhabited areas of Alaska with the temperature around zero. The first indication I had that this was a problem was when another pilot brought the oil he had drained from his engine indoors and put it on the wood stove to warm. Then I watched Crazy Horse prepare his airplane to fly. To warm the cabin and free any ice from the control cables inside he had installed what amounted to a duct system with hosing used in clothes dryer vents. At one end he placed a small one-burner camp stove and let the heat from it circulate to where it needed to go through the ducting. Given an adequate amount of time he climbed in and worked the cables to make sure they operated correctly and then hustled me into the airplane so we could take off before they had a chance to freeze again. Once running, engine heat kept them functionally warm.
    Back in the air on another severe clear day we headed for the Yukon River. We flew over Shageluk and then Anvik where I wanted to stop, but Crazy Horse wanted to go on to Grayling where his friend Ernie Chase had invited us for dinner. Having been living on corn nuts and jerky for the better part of four days, now, the idea of moose stew sounded great so we went to Grayling. By the time we arrived the day had reached a gray twilight. A couple of airplanes stood parked on the river and Ed checked the wind and looked over the surface for adequate landing room. He finally settled down on what appeared perfectly smooth snow-covered river ice, but the minute we touched down we bounced right back up into the air. We came down hard the second time, a little softer on the third until the pilot finally brought the little airplane under control. Once stopped Crazy Horse gave me a sideways glance and said, "flat light, bouncy landing."
   
The result
 After a dinner of moose stew with Ernie Chase and his family we slept the night and headed upriver in the morning. We pressed on, stopped at Kaltag, then Unalakleet, then Shaktoolik and on to the Seward Peninsula where the weather took one last lick at us as we flew from Elim to Nome. As wind poured off the peninsula from the north it came smoothly off the flatter valley floors but off the bluffs it came blasting creating a turbulence that threw the 170 all over the sky. Crazy Horse fought the stick for at least an hour until we rounded Cape Nome and headed for town. Once we returned to earth, we piled out of the airplane and stood there shaking hands on the runway, knowing we had shared an adventure. 

     At that point I realized Crazy Horse had grown from simply the pilot ferrying the writer around into becoming a major element in the greater narrative. He belonged in the story, too. 
     We went our separate ways for a while, but the next day we met in the office of the Nome Nugget where I was staying. I confirmed with Ed that he had a place to stay and he told me he had to get back and how long did I intend to stay. I told him I needed to stay until the banquet but I could fly back commercial, so we said our goodbyes and my thank-yous there on Front Street in Nome and that was the last time I ever saw Crazy Horse.
    But those two weeks on the trail have lived vividly in memory for forty years. I still get a smile when I hear or use the term "flat light." And every time I ride in an airplane I recall that plunge at a musher on the Burn, smile and fly confidently. So, now, Crazy Horse is gone and though it sounds a little schmaltzy, all I can think of to say is fly high my friend and may you only encounter severe clear sky.

Other memorials

Friday, July 5, 2019

Rim of Red Water Ch X Captain Cook leads the English north

By Tim Jones
A statue of Captain Cook in Anchorage,
Alaska, has the great captain looking
south into the sunset. (Alaska.org) 
Copyright © 2019 Tim Jones

Even though I cut this chapter in half and then into two-thirds/one-third segements, this is going to be a long one. Please bear with me. There are a couple of reasons it's long. For one, I knew more about Captain James Cook going into this project than any of the other characters. Over the years I have read anything I've been able to get my hands on about the man and his accomplishments. Secondly, I used to give a narration about Cook on the tour boat I drove. I had two versions of the spiel and here is why. Prince William Sound in Alaska is a relatively calm body of water. There was one spot, though, where we had to cross a relatively open body of water that was exposed to the Pacific Ocean. I used to tell people if you sailed straight south the only thing between you and Antarctica was Hawaii. That's a long fetch for waves to build. If ever our tour was going to be rough that's where. We sometimes met waves coming in from a Gulf of Alaska storm and unfortunately we had to take them on the beam, which rolled the boat. My normal version of the spiel was relatively short. I spoke mostly of Cook's time along the coast of Alaska and particularly in Prince William Sound. But if the water was rough, I had longer version. I called it the sauerkraut version. I started with Cook charting the St. Lawrence River in the dark in order to lead the British fleet up the river to the Battle of Quebec during the French and Indian War. The French had fortified the city anticipating an attack from land. The approach from the river took the French by surprise and won the battle for the British. I took the passengers through all three of Cook's voyages of exploration telling them even about how after learning German sailors seldom if ever suffered from scurvy, he decided the main difference between the two fleets was the ubiquitous use of saurkraut in the German ships' diet. He fed it to his own crews and in three trips around the world Cook only lost one crewman to scurvy and that fellow had been impressed off another ship in the Indian Ocean and probably already had the disease. I gave this talk in a monotone with little inflection. My thinking was that one of two things would happen. Either the passengers would listen intently, taking their minds off the rough water; or they would fall asleep and weather the ride that way. For the most part it worked. —author

While Grigori Shelikhov was organizing his companies to enter the sea otter fur trade in Siberia, in London the British Admiralty had been organizing an exploratory voyage to the Pacific, that would continue charting the mid and southern latitudes, but this one was also ordered north to 65 degrees in an attempt to locate the northwest passage, a possible shorter route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans than around either Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.
 This would be led by Captain James Cook who would be making his third voyage to the Pacific and with him would sail several men who would figure in further British exploration and the fur trade along the Alaska coast.
After weeks of the kinds of delays that by nature have to precede a voyage expected to take four years, Cook sailed from Plymouth, England, July 12, 1776, just eight days after the American Colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. In addition to the possibility of being molested by American ships of the revolution, Cook also had raised suspicion in the courts of Europe. With British and French traders ever moving west over land and Russians moving south along the coast, the Spanish court in Madrid, constantly jealous of Spain's position on the North American West Coast and in the Pacific, issued orders to the viceroy in Mexico to seize and imprison Cook if possible. 
This didn't present too much of a problem for Cook as he was under orders not to touch on
Spanish soil, though he didn't know how far north the Spanish had explored from California or what they claimed. The French, too, watched him after a spy became convinced Cook planned to join with Russians at Kamchatka and attempt to subdue Japan, another erroneous assumption. Cook, of course, had enough in mind with his explorations and cared little for wars, politics or intrigues.
Cook's ship, the Resolution, was making its second voyage to the Pacific, having returned just two years earlier. The ship measured 111 feet long by 35 feet at the beam. It had 13 feet of depth in the hold, this from the keel to the water line and was listed at 450 gross tons. The ship had been build at Whitbey, designed as a collier to haul coal along the English Channel side of the British Isles. Cook's first experiences at sea had been aboard Whitbey colliers and when the time came for his adventures in the Pacific, he turned to the stout little ships, foregoing other types that might have been faster and larger, for a ship that could withstand the rigors of from two to four years at sea away from the luxuries of shipyards.
The Resolution originally had been named the Drake after the British captain who had sailed to the Northwest Coast of North America in the late 1500s. The name was changed for the voyages to the Pacific to accommodate Spanish sensibilities, the feeling being that the ship might fare better in the Pacific if it weren't named for a man so disliked by the Spaniards.
One hundred and eleven men sailed with Cook when he left Plymouth, along with a barnyard of animals that included sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits and poultry. Cook also took a bull, two cows and their calves, to be used for stocking Tahiti and neighboring islands.
Cook sailed directly for Capetown, South Africa, without his consort ship, the Discovery.  William Clerke, the only officer to make all three voyages with Cook and by this time promoted to captain of the Discovery, had become entangled with moneylenders in London when he assumed the debts of a brother. He even spent some time in a debtors' prison between the two voyages. This
Cook's third voyage: Red out, blue home
delayed his taking command of the ship until almost three weeks after Cook departed. Somehow he managed to escape his creditors, some accounts even have them chasing him down the road to Plymouth where he raced to join his ship. He took only a day to straighten out his crew, dash off a few letters to the Admiralty and then three weeks to the day behind Cook, he left Plymouth to chase the Resolution southward in the Atlantic.
Clerke reached Capetown November 10 much to the relief of Cook and by the end of the month both ships were ready to sail. The Discovery was somewhat smaller than the Resolution, with a lower deck length of 91 feet and a beam of 27. Depth in the hold was a little more than 11 feet and she was listed at 298 tons burden. The ship carried a crew of 70 men which brought the total on the two ships to 182. Clerke's second in command was John Gore, an American and a veteran of Cook's second voyage and who was actually departing on his fourth voyage into the Pacific. Gore, born in Virginia, had been at sea since 1755, was older than everyone on the two ships except Cook. Clerke was only in his early 30s, having gone to sea at age 12, also in 1755.  
          November 30 both ships weighed anchor for the trip around the Cape of Good Hope, hoping to make Tahiti by February. Cook spent the year of 1777 sailing the Indian and South Pacific Oceans touching on several previous discoveries including Tahiti and working his way generally to the northeast toward his American destination. By December 25 that year he was anchored at Christmas Island where he spent the better part of two weeks. From there he planned to make his run for New Albion ,the name Sir Francis Drake had give the American western shore north of Mexico and the principal reason the Spanish hated Drake.
This 1658 map, by Nicolaes Visscher I, shows Nova Albion
 as a region in the north of an island identified as "California."

Cook then planned to follow the American coast north to 65 degrees where he hoped to find a passage to Europe.
Though Spanish galleons had been across the Pacific from Manila to South and Central America for almost 200 years, they had reported no land north of Cook's position at Christmas Island. Yet, after about a week of sailing generally north from Christmas Island, Cook and Clerke began to see the flocks of birds and groups of turtles that indicated land somewhere nearby.  
January 18 they sighted high land to their northeast. As Cook coasted this land he identified five large islands. By the 20th he had found something of a protected anchorage and brought his ships into what is known as Wiamea Bay. Cook had made one of his most important discoveries, Hawaii, which he named Sandwich Islands for John Montague, the fourth Earl of Sandwich and Cook's sponsor and friend for many years.
Even with the warmth of his reception in the islands, Cook could waste no time there. Already he was a season behind the schedule given him by the Admiralty. After less than two weeks resupplying his ships, he sailed again February 2 for New Albion. For the first part of the voyage the Resolution and Discovery encountered favorable weather and made good speed as they sailed northeast into March. By the first of the month, they had reached 44 degrees north latitude and 141 west longitude which put them approximately 900 miles off what is now Cape Mendocino, California. (A side note: I have sailed through the same area twice — author) Then the weather changed on them and they spent the next three weeks battling northerly storms with the temperature dropping into the 40s. Northwesterly gales turned the whole west coast of America into a dangerous lee shore, called that because the shore is on the downwind side of the ship with the wind blowing the ship toward the shore. Cook and Clerke ducked in and out of fog banks, at times picking up a glimpse or two of land to the east of them. When the weather cleared enough one day for a good sight of land, Cook named the most prominent point he could see, Cape Foulweather, a name that holds to this day.
They turned west along the shore tacitly looking for a strait discovered and named for the Spaniard Juan de Fuca, a strait Cook suspected didn't exist, or if it did, not in the position stated by the Spanish explorer. By March 13 the northwesterlies had driven the ships back to latitude 42 degrees, 45 minutes and a large westerly swell constantly threatened to dash them against the shore. Occasional southerly storms gave them the only northing they could achieve and during March they made very slow progress up the coast. In fog, Cook missed the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the 29th of March with the weather clearing, Cook stood toward land and there found a suitable anchorage to make repairs and replenish supplies of wood and water for the ships. By the last day of March, both the Resolution and Discovery were moored inside Nootka Sound on the west coast of Canada's
Nootka Sound became a regular stop for British and
American ships in the trade.
Vancouver Island in a bight now known as Resolution Cove. Here Cook stayed four weeks making repairs, and resupplying the ships while his sailors carried on a brisk trade with the Native tribes, picking up a fair supply of sea otter furs. The Natives for their part behaved like others Cook had encountered in the Pacific, attempting to appropriate every loose piece of metal whether by trade or outright theft. Even Cook's own watch was taken from his cabin despite a guard standing for that very purpose. Cook recovered the watch but one day in exasperation over the thievery he did fire a shot at the Indians, according to Clerke wounding several in their backsides.
In addition to other repairs, the Resolution's carpenters found they were going to have to replace the entire foremast and then the mizzen. While supervising the heavy work, Cook took the time to explore Nootka Sound, finding in the process several good anchorages. His officers set up their instruments on a rock in Resolution Cove to make their celestial sights from an unmoving base. Cook was almost fanatic about fixing his positions correctly, and these fixes were incredibly accurate considering the equipment available to him. When time permitted Cook was known to order numerous sights taken, sometimes 70 or more. The position of Resolution Cove was fixed after some 90 sights taken from the observatory rock, along with 20 before their arrival and another 24 on their departure. In all, Cook and his men made 134 separate fixes to determine the position of what was to become the major anchorage on the West Coast for sea otter fur traders coming from England and the emerging United States.  
Cook, it must be understood, was the first of the early explorers to ascertain accurate longitude: one second off means a quarter of a mile. Until Cook longitude was pretty much a matter of calculated guesswork. Longitude was measured in minutes and seconds from the Prime Meridian which passes through Greenwich, England. What had been missing was an adequate timepiece to measure the exact time difference from Greenwich. On his second voyage, Cook took along an experimental chronometer which proved accurate throughout the voyage as long as it was kept wound. The chronometer was kept at Greenwich while ship's clocks kept local time which is confirmed by taking noon site of the sun's highest position. As a result, the chartings Cook made hold up within just a few minutes to those made with modern instruments.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Rim of Red Water CH IX Grigori Shelikhov begins to stabilize the sea otter trade

Grigori Shelikhov 
By Tim Jones            
Copyright © 2919 Tim Jones 
We had an otter come up in the seine with mostly jellyfish. They usually jump the cork line in the water. This one came right up on deck in the net. We dumped the seine on deck instead of in the fish hold so he wouldn't drown in there. He came out of that mess snarling. He rolled around to rub off the jellyfish and then cornered the whole crew against the deck house. We tried to help but couldn't get near him. He'd chase us back every time. Then he finally loped down the deck and over the stern roller into the water. He was all slimy and rubbing his eyes  from the jellyfish. — Eddie Dunn, Alaska salmon fisherman.
On his arrival in Irkutsk, Grigori Shelikhov took a job as business manager for Ivan Golikov, a merchant who was just emerging into the fur trade in the Eastern Sea. Golikov had been banished to Siberia from Kursk where he had been convicted of skimming money from the liquor taxes he collected. For two years Shelikhov held his job while Golikov carried on his business in trade and attempted to join the lucrative fur traffic from the East. By this time the price of an otter fur had risen to about $50 in Irkutsk and that same fur was worth about $70 at the Chinese trading site in Kiakhta. Both men saw the large cargoes of the late 60s and early 70s pass through Irkutsk and both wanted a part of this trade. Golikov already was somewhat established, but Shelikhov in the first two years at Irkutsk still had to work for wages.
Then in 1775, Shelikhov married the rich widow of an Irkutsk merchant and with his new wealth plunged into the sea otter fur trade. In the course of his dealings at Irkutsk, Shelikhov had met many of the players in the Eastern Sea and from them both learned the machinations of the trade and, once he had money, found a ready group of partners for his own entry into the business. 
Once he had control of his new wife's fortune, Shelikhov wasted no time jumping into the fur trade. In the fall of the same year as his wedding Shelikhov in partnership with Pavel Lebedev-Lastochkin invested in a company and that fall obtained permission to send a ship to the farther Kurile Islands.  But, Shelikhov wasn't one to leave his fortunes to just one partnership. He wanted to cover the trade and began looking for other deals to complement his first. In early 1776 Shelikhov joined with Luka Alin in another fur trading company and the next year he joined two more, one headed by his employer Golikov and the second with the Panov brothers. Each of these partnerships also sent a ship into the fur trade. As quickly as proceeds from these first ventures began accruing, Shelikhov invested his profits in new adventures and apparently looked to eventual individual ownership of the ships. 
With the return of the first ship, the one in partnership with Lebedev-Lastochkin, Shelikhov withdrew from the partnership and he and Golikov outfitted their own ship and sent it off on the hunt in 1779.  Then when the Peter and Paulreturned from the Commander Islands, the ship he'd outfitted in partnership with Luka Alin, Shelikhov had his own vessel built, the St. John the Baptist, and sent it to the Aleutians. Shelikhov didn't limit himself simply to investing his money and waiting for the profits to roll into his accounts. He studied the trade and its history and when toward the end of the 1770s the number of furs began to decline further, he knew something different had to be done. He saw the answer to the decline in better management of the hunt, management that could only be accomplished if the entire operation were concentrated under the control of a single operation. Shelikhov made his proposals to several of the Irkutsk merchants but with little success. To this end, the government showed little interest in granting such a monopoly. Lebedev-Lastochkin already had petitioned for exclusive hunting areas and been rejected. Other merchants were just as reticent to join any kind of exclusive agreement. The one man who listened to Shelikhov was his old employer, Ivan Golikov. Even while their ships were hunting the Aleutians, Golikov and Shelikhov made an agreement and formed a company that would change the industry.
In 1781, they capitalized the Northeastern Company and the authorities in St. Petersburg approved the company charter. The new company differed from any other in the fur trade in several ways. Principal among these was a lasting enterprise rather than just one voyage. All of the previous partnerships had been formed to finance a ship and its voyage. The new Northeastern Co. was chartered for ten years to cover several trips to the Aleutians and the Alaska mainland coast. Secondly, the company planned to establish settlements in the new territory. These settlements would serve as permanent hunting stations, which would limit some of the high overhead of outfitting ships for long hunting voyages. If hunters could be stationed permanently along the coast, ships would only have to bring provisions and take home furs rather than spend years at sea trading, hunting and maintaining their equipment and crews. In the process, Russia would begin to colonize rather than simply exploit the newly discovered lands.
The proposal did not go unnoticed in St. Petersburg where, even so far removed from the Eastern Sea, the government of Catherine the Great was feeling the encroachment of other nations into the Russian territories. The European courts at the time were nothing if not filled with intrigues and spying on each other and Catherine's court may have been one of the most complicated. The Spanish embassy to Russia, in particular, took a great interest in the Alaska activities. After all, though a direct connection had yet to be explored, the Russians were expanding to the east and probably south toward Spanish colonies in California. The Spanish wanted no encroachments into their territory and as information passed from Catherine's court back to Spain and then to the New World, the colonists in Mexico and California started looking toward sending ships to the north to establish territory and find out just how far the Russians had advanced toward New Spain. And, Spain wasn't the only sea power interested in that coast. 
          The British, to this point had confined their explorations to the rich mid-latitudes and though that remained their interest for some time to come, the idea that there might be a faster route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans prompted that government to finance a voyage into the North Pacific Ocean with the idea of finding the so-far elusive northwest passage. In 1776 the Royal Academy of Science with the British Navy sent out two ships on that exploration under the command of Captain James Cook, a veteran of two previous around-the-world exploratory voyages. Catherine, of course, also knew of the Spanish information-gathering and wanted to protect Russian claims on that far coast. The proposal to establish Russian settlements along the coast, and at no cost to the treasury, must have pleased her government. With news of other European countries' explorations reaching the court in St. Petersburg, the petition by Shelikhov and Golikov was received with a great deal of interest.  Here was a way to protect Russian interests through colonization. In 1780, Catherine declared a state of Armed Neutrality over the discoveries of the Eastern Sea, bringing them under the Russian umbrella of state territory. 

NEXT: A British expedition led by Captain James Cook explores the Alaska coast and makes contact with the Russians

Memorable quotations


"You can do anything as long as you don't scare the horses." — a mother's favorite saying recalled by a friend

A poem is an egg with a horse inside” — anonymous fourth grader

“My children will likely turn my picture to the wall but what the hell, you only get old once." — Joe May

“Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”Stephen King

The thing about ignorance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

"It was like the aftermath of an orgasm with the wrong partner." – David Lagercrants “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.”

Why worry about dying, you aren't going to live to regret it.

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

Normal is how somebody else thinks you should act.

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

I realized today how many of my stories start out "years ago." What's next? Once upon a time?"

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

He's not doing things he can't do."

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Owners of a Noah's Ark replica file a lawsuit over rain damage

In Southcentral Alaska earthquake, damage originated in the ground, engineers say

Alabama governor candidate caught in lesbian sprem donation scandal

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve