Gedenstrom Matvey Matveyevich 
(near 1780–20.06.1845)

Researcher of the Arctic and Siberia. 
Born in Riga, in the family of an employee, a Swedish political émigré. According to passport data for 1798, Gedenstrom was a Swedish citizen. Nothing definite is known about the education he received. According to some sources, he studied at the University of Dorpat (Tartu), but the archival documents of the university do not confirm this. 
Until 1806, Gödenstrom worked in Riga as a translator for the Governor General of the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire, then as a customs inspector in Riga and Libau (Liepaja). 
In 1808, he arrived from St. Petersburg in Tobolsk at the disposal of the Governor-General of Siberia Pestel to take up an administrative position. At this time, it became known about the discovery by industrialists of the Sannikov, Lyakhov and Syrovatsky islands north of the mouth of the Yana. Because of the fishing rights on these islands, litigation began, and it was decided to send an expedition to clarify the position and size of the islands, the possibilities of fishing on them and resolve the litigation between the applicants for fishing. 
State Chancellor N.P. Rumyantsev instructed the governor to appoint an energetic official to the expedition, to provide him with the means, tools, and assistants. The choice fell on Gedenstrom, who was out of office. In this connection, he wrote: “I was then in Tobolsk, where I was sent in February 1808 by imperial command, to wait for the order assigned to me in the service; therefore, in May of this year, he was chosen to describe these lands. ... It was announced to me that, upon successful completion of the assignment entrusted to me, I could not only receive the title of Titular Counselor requested by the city of Siberia, the governor-general, but also hope for the greater differences”.  
Unprepared for such an exercise, Gödenstrom had to do a lot to learn how to work with instruments, the method of determining the coordinates. Assistant surveyor I.E.Kozhevin, and since 1811 he was replaced by the surveyor P. Pshenitsyn. 
In the spring of 1809, crossing the sleds from the mouth of the Yana to the New Siberian Islands, Gedenstrom divided the squad into three groups and at the head of one of them described about 200 km of the coastline opened in 1806 by the industrialist Syrovatsky Island, which was given the name New Siberia. Winter 1809 - 1810 he spent on the Siberian coast southeast of Bolshaya Lyakhovsky Island, from where in the spring of 1810 he went on sledges to the mouth of the Indigirka and then to the east coast of  New Siberia Island. Hedenstrom believed that along the northern coast of Siberia, east of the mouth of Indigirka to America itself, stretches a chain of large islands. In search of land to the north of the islands, his detachment walked along the ridged ice over 90 km east of New Siberia and was stopped by a large expanse of clear water. This was the first indication of the existence of the so-called Great Siberian Polynya. From the polynya, the researchers turned south and reached the mouth of the Kolyma. From there, they repeated the search for land, having traveled over 150 km to the northeast, but they did not find the land again. The question of the “Sannikov Land” is connected with the expedition of Gedenstrom. 
Subsequently, he wrote: "For three years I traveled, by the highest order, along the shores and islands of the Arctic Sea and brought from these harsh countries detailed knowledge of that land and ruined health". 
The result of the activities of Gedenstrom was the description and map of the Novosibirsk Islands, as well as the coast of Siberia between the mouths of the Yana and Kolyma. He opened the "Wooden" mountains on  New Siberia Island with a mass of petrified wood, brought from Kotelniy 
Island first organic residues.


Bay Gedyshtrom from the satellite. March 2010

After two years of work on the expedition, Gedenstrom left for Irkutsk to report on its results. 
At the beginning of 1812 he was recalled to Irkutsk, where he served first in the office of the governor, and then held the post of Verkhneudinsk police officer, and in these administrative positions without leaving scientific research and collecting mineralogical and botanical collections, making many trips around Yakutia and Transbaikalia. 
The personality of Gedenstrom and the reviews of his contemporaries are very ambiguous. On the one hand, people who knew him described Gödenstrom as a very educated person, fluent in many European languages, a science connoisseur, benevolent, ready to help. His outstanding human qualities were manifested not only in the Arctic expeditions. In the Alekseevsky ravelin of the Peter and Paul Fortress, his friend Decembrist Gavrila Batenkov was serving a 20-year prison sentence. Gedenstrom had an almost impracticable desire to visit a friend. He met the commander of the guard company and with his help got into the territory of the fortress. Dressed in a soldier's uniform, under the guise of batman Commander Gedenshtrom entered the guardroom and in one of the shifts became a sentry in the interior of the casemates of the fortress. Having found Baten'kov’s cell, he spent a whole hour with a friend. Exposing threatened with shackles and Siberia, and perhaps the gallows, but nothing could stop Gedenstrom. 
At the same time, serious negative traits of his character were noted: he was unclean, made a large fortune by deception while buying bread on behalf of the Irkutsk governor, tried to blame him when the new governor, M.M. Speransky, arrived in Siberia with the inspection.   This did not save Gedenstrom from punishment. For excess of power and embezzlement, he was removed from office in 1820. The Special Committee decided to not allow him to any posts. Gedenstrom settled in Tobolsk. The Western Siberian authorities, wanting to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of Gedenstrom, obtained permission for him to enter the service. In 1827, Gedenstrom was allowed to return to European Russia, where, at the request of Speransky, he enlisted in the Medical Department as head of the department. Here he proposed a special way of accounting for pharmacists, depriving them of most of the income. 
After serving several years in St. Petersburg, Gedenstrom returned to Siberia, in the 1830s he was appointed provincial postmaster, lived in Irkutsk, Verkhneudinsk, Tomsk. Upon his retirement, he settled in the village of Kaydukovo near Tomsk, drank deeply and died in extreme poverty. Buried in Tomsk. So ingloriously ended the life of this gifted Russian man, who has done a lot for his homeland. The results of his research and talented written descriptions of travels are published in articles and books, the main ones being Gedenstrom's Travels on the Arctic Sea and its islands and Selections about Siberia. 
Mountain on the island of New Siberia. Named in 1886 by E.V. Toll. 
Bay between the islands Faddeevsky and Bunge Land. Named in 1822, P.F. Anjou. 
River on the island of New Siberia.


Return to the main page