Wrangel Ferdinand Petrovich
scientist, navigator, polar explorer, admiral,
Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of
Born in Pskov, in a family of immigrants from Denmark. His
grandfather was a chamberlain at the court of Peter III, when
Catherine II fell into disgrace and fled abroad. Wrangel's
parents, not having the means to raise their son, gave him to the
care of one of the relatives.Acquaintance of the teachers of Wrangel
with Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern,
his stories about his world tour left an indelible mark on the soul
of a child, aroused interest in the sea, travel, geographical
discoveries and in many respects determined his future fate.
In 1810, the boy was given to the Naval Cadet Corps. By
that time, he did not know a word in Russian, and after graduation
he mastered Russian better than German. Impressions
about the years of study were very ambiguous: "... the education is
Spartan, the teaching is the worst ...." The
shortcomings of teaching Wrangel filled with self-education and
closest friend was P.F. Anjou,
the friendship with which went through their lives. They
were the best graduates of the graduation class: of 99 cadets,
Wrangel was the first, and Anjou was the second.
At the end of the naval corps in 1815, the midshipman Wrangel
served for some time in Revel, sailing in the Gulf of Finland on the
frigate Avtoil, but the dream of traveling and geographical
discoveries did not leave him. Learning
about the impending round-the-world voyage
on the sloop "Kamchatka", Wrangel tried to get there, but Golovnin
Wrangel decided to take a desperate step: he wrote to the commander
of the port of Revel a report about his illness and left the ship. A
few days later, arriving on a coaster in St. Petersburg, he came to
reaction of that was destructive: “You must be arrested, gracious
sir, for fleeing the ship”. The
moment was decisive, the situation was saved by Wrangel's answer:
“In this case, I would like to go under arrest upon returning from
the voyage…. Take
me as a simple sailor".
Golovnin was able to assess the condition of the young sailor,
understand his dedication, love of the sea, perseverance in
achieving his goal. The
next day, Wrangel was included in the staff of the expedition.
During the voyage, Wrangel met and became close to people like F.P. Litke, F.F. Matyushkin, P.T. Kozmin.
Participation in this voyage around the world, close contacts
with Golovnin were decisive in the fate of Wrangel, his formation as
a seaman and a scientist. On
board the Kamchatka, in addition to the basic service, he put a lot
of time and effort into filling education gaps: he studied
geography, the history of polar voyages and discoveries, navigation,
astronomy, which was greatly contributed by the presence of an
excellent library on board.
The next period of Wrangel activity covers the period 1820 -
is associated with work at the head of a land detachment charged
with conducting an inventory of the northeastern coasts of Russia,
answering questions about the existence of the “North Motherland” -
land north of the Asian continent, as well as the presence or
absence of an isthmus between Asia and America. The
appointment of such a responsible business was a manifestation of
Wrangel’s highest appreciation as a seaman, scientist and leader. His
assistant was Matyushkin. The
expedition also included Kozmin.
At the end of March, 1820, they set off from St. Petersburg, ten
days later they were in Moscow, from there, constantly changing
horses, and in a month and a half they traveled 5,317 miles to
Siberian Governor M.M. Speransky,
who gave Wrangel unlimited powers in organizing the expedition. By
this time, the governor had sent all the necessary instructions to
the local authorities. The
meeting of Wrangel and Matyushkin with M.M. Hedenstrom.
At the end of June, they left Irkutsk, two days later they
reached Kachug on Lena, from where they set off downstream on a
large flat-bottomed vessel. At
the very beginning of November, the expedition gathered in Nizhnekolymsk.
Winter was spent in active preparation of the necessary supplies
On February 19, 1821, Wrangell, Kozmin and three Cossacks
traveled east along the coast to Cape
Shelagsky, where, according to some foreign geographers, in
particular James Burney, there was an isthmus between Asia and
we went to places already described earlier by G.A. Sarychev and I.I. Billings.
Wrangel noted with satisfaction that his observations were
“perfectly consistent” with the data of his predecessors. Behind
the cape of Baranov Kamen were places known only from the
description of N.P. Shalaurov. Now
their route had to repeat every bend of a very winding coast. There
were severe frosts, accompanied by frequent blizzards. Conducting
observations turned into a painful ordeal. People
suffered, but devices failed, chronometers stopped. On
March 5, they finally reached the Shelagsky Cape and determined its
went east to the next cape, which he called Cape
Kozmin, and made sure that the coastline turned southeast. Thus,
he established that there is no isthmus with America in this place. On
the way back, the travelers survived the famine, as the food stores
left by them were destroyed by Arctic foxes and wolverines.
At the end of March, a detachment led by Wrangel and Matyushkin
traveled north to decide on the existence of an unknown land. Wrangel
decided to start from the west, from the site north of the mouth
of the Kolyma, where the existence of the "Andreev Land" was
Islands, we traveled more than 200 km to the north, overcoming
ridges of hummocks, thin ice, streams, and stopped only after
further advancement became impossible due to the unreliable ice and
the proximity of the raging open sea. They
looked at the north for a long time, even at the telescope they took
with them, but they did not see the earth. Turning
back, they reached the Bear Islands, and on April 20–23 they were
working on their inventory. April
28 returned to Nizhnekolymsk. Wrangell
was failing, and the more emotional Matyushkin was simply
overwhelmed by it. The
naval ministry showed discontent with the fact that Wrangel began
his search from the west, and not from the Shelagsky Cape, as the
In the summer of 1821, Wrangel described the lower course of the
hikes did not pass for him without a trace. He
developed rheumatism, and on the advice of the expedition doctor A.
Kiber, he stayed in
Srednekolymsk until the end of August, which seemed to him a
On September 2, he was already in Nizhnekolymsk, where a few
weeks later he was joined by Matyushkin and Kiber, completing the
inventory of the tundra east of the mouth of the Kolyma and
exploring the Maly Anyuya region, and some time later Kozmin,
describing the coast between
Kolyma and Indigirka. With
Kozmin, Wrangel's bosom friend of Anjou came to visit, completing
the inventory from Yana
Preparing for the new season was extremely difficult. The
early onset of winter, poor hunting and fishing led to hunger among
the local population. Count
on his help in the procurement of food was not necessary. In
addition, for some reason, the dogs began to die. Initially,
Wrangel was going to work in two groups: to search for the "Northern
Land" and describe the coast from the Shelagsky Cape to the Bering
the lack of dogs forced him to abandon this plan. He
decided to search for land, and the inventory was postponed until
On March 17, a very heavy ice went from Baranov Kamen to the
and dogs were exhausted. Wrangel
decided to free himself from part of the food supply by organizing a
warehouse on the fast ice and sending part of the nart to the
he went north with Kozmin, reaching 71° 13′ N, and Matyushkina sent to the northeast. His
group reached 71° 10′N on
the 168°E meridian. Several
times saw mirages that were taken for the land. In
the agreed place, the detachments met. On
April 10, Wrangel sent Matyushkin with two guides to the north:
after 10 versts the road was blocked by an unfrozen sea. From
the point of 72° 2′,
262 km from the coast, along the longitude of Baranov Kamen, they
turned east and attempted to search for land north of the Shelagsky
made sure that there is no land in 130 km from this cape either. Food
ended, and Wrangell decided to return to Nizhnekolymsk.
The ministry expressed increasing discontent with the fact that
Wrangel was searching for land north-west and not north of Shelagsky
greatly offended and oppressed him. He
believed that it was necessary to search everywhere north of the
after two trips, it has become clear: there is no land in the
“distance” from the Siberian coast between the meridians of the Bear
Islands and the Shelagsky Cape. Search
the land must be east.
After receiving the Wrangel report in St. Petersburg, the
attitude towards the results of his expedition changed dramatically
for the better. It
was said that his staff "underwent great labors and dangers", and brought immense benefit to geography. Decided
to extend the expedition for another year.
In the last, fourth expedition to the north, Wrangel and Kozmin
set out. On
February 26, they traveled east along the coast with a group of
local residents, and on March 8 they were at Cape Shelagsky. Here
they were visited by one of the Chukchi elders, who claimed that
there was mountainous land not far from their land in the north.
Reaching Cape Kozmin, turned north. The
hike was extremely difficult and often deadly. Having
got on the ice broken by the stormy sea, travelers several times
found themselves on the verge of death, saving themselves only by a
Wrangel, having exhausted all possibilities to move north, decided
to turn south, the detachment was at 70° 51′N and
miles from the coast and only 30 miles from the desired land, which
now bears his name.
Food stores that travelers left on the ice were gone, and by the
time they returned, they had a five-day supply of food 360 miles to
the nearest ground warehouse. All
hope was to meet with a detachment of Matyushkin, who made a survey
of the coast from Shelagsky Cape to Cape Severny. Fortunately,
a saving encounter occurred.Matyushkin reported on the information
he received from the Chukchi about the land visible north of Cape
reached the Yakan, the travelers looked for a long time to the
north, but did not see the land. Matyushkin
once again tried to get to her on the ice, but did not achieve
also completed the shooting of the coast to Cape North, the point
where the English navigator James Cook reached from the Pacific
the question of connecting Asia with America was finally removed. The
problem of mapping the northern coast of Siberia from Kolyma to Cape
Severny was also solved.
The expedition, brilliantly conducted by Wrangel, gave excellent
Wrangell initiated the collection of materials on the terrestrial
magnetism of Eastern Siberia. The
material he collected was the first magnetic reconnaissance survey
of Eastern Siberia from Yakutsk to the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
Wrangel first described the ice of the East Siberian and Chukchi
seas, established the boundaries of the distribution of fast ice in
this region, first discovered the ice islands and gave them a very
accurate description. According
to the famous oceanographer N.N. Zubov,
Wrangel "gave, in essence, the first descriptions of polar ice".
Wrangel's detachment, as well as the detachment of his friend
opened a permanent sea polynya, which later received the name of the
Great Northern Polynya, which begins north-west of Kotelny
Island and extends
southeast, approaching the mainland.
An outstanding contribution to the study of the climate of the
North-East of Russia was the organization by Wrangel and Matyushkin
of systematic meteorological observations in Nizhnekolymsk, which
were subsequently used by many outstanding scientists to
characterize the meteorological conditions on the northern coast of
observations of the Wrangel expedition over the aurora were
An inventory of the coast of Siberia from Indigirka to
Kolyuchinskaya Bay, produced by Wrangel’s expedition, together with
the materials of I. Billings’s expedition, which explored the coast
from Kolyuchinskaya Bay to the Bering Strait, made it possible to
get a modern outline of the coastline in this region.
The experience of organizing and conducting trekking on ice on
dog sleds, accumulated by Wrangel, was subsequently used by such
outstanding polar travelers as F.
Nansen and R.
invention introduced by Wrangel to protect dogs from cold and damage
to their paws deserves special attention. They
wore a special kind of footwear made of durable leather, while
others “more sensitive, less sensitive to other parts of the body
covered with hair and freezing”, were wrapped with skins of skins.
And finally, Wrangel’s research proved the absence of a “large
continent” north of the Siberian shores at least 300–500 miles away. At
the same time, Wrangel said that according to information from local
residents, there is a large mountainous island north of Cape
Yakan, and showed its approximate location on the map under 71º N with
the words "Mountains are seen from Cape Yakana in the summer". As
it turned out, the place was fairly accurate. F.P. Litke
wrote that this land "is no longer to be sought, but should be
the article of the naval historian A.O. Kornilovich
noted: “…. he
prepared his successor in this business all the ways for its
indicated a place from where to look for her, and ways to get to her
In the subsequent five years after the Arctic expedition, Wrangel
commanded the transport "Krotkiy", made a voyage around the world, and
the frigate "Elizabeth", published the first works on the Arctic
Sea, finished work on the description of the journey to the northern
shores of Siberia. He
was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences.
In the period 1829-1835 he
was the chief ruler of Russian America, combining administrative and
managerial work with intensive scientific activity and bringing
immense benefit to Russian geography and ethnography.
In 1838, Wrangel became the manager of the Russian-American
company, and soon was elected its chief director. His
activities in these posts ensured the development of Russian
settlements in America and was also marked by great scientific
the initiative of Wrangel, a whole series of expeditions were
organized both to study the areas of the Russian possessions in
America, and the eastern and northeastern territories of Russia.
Only in 1841, Wrangel managed to publish a description of his
Arctic voyage, which was prepared in 1828. At
the same time, the Academy of Sciences published an addendum to it,
and the following year, Wrangel was awarded the Demidov Prize to the
An outstanding role belongs to Wrangel in the creation of the
Imperial Russian Geographical Society, of which he became a founding member, together with F.P. Litke
and academician K.M. Baer. The
range of state, political and scientific interests of Wrangel was
extremely wide, at the same time, he never forgot about the Arctic. Of
great importance for subsequent expeditions to study the Arctic was
his project to reach the North Pole, the validity and reality of
which was confirmed by the practice. It
summarized and analyzed the experience of Wrangel and Anjou in
organizing toboggan trips on the ice. Wrangel
convincingly showed the fallacy of ideas about the possibility of
reaching the pole along the Spitsbergen meridian and recommended the
way from Greenland, which, after 63 years, the American R. Peary
In 1864, due to health reasons, Wrangel withdrew from the civil
service and moved permanently to his estate. But
even during this period, practically until the end of his life, he
conducted active research work, being aware of the main scientific
events of his time. The
merits of Wrangel are marked by the Orders of St.
George of the 4th
degree for 25 years of service, St.
Stanislav of the 1st
Anna of the 1st
degree with the Imperial Crown, St.
Vladimir of the 2nd
He died in Dorpat (now Tartu). He
was buried in the family section of the cemetery, located one
kilometer from Viru-Yagupi (the old name Ruil) in Estonia. According
to a report in 1960, the grave was not preserved. In
the cemetery chapel, we managed to find only a gravestone marble
plank with the name and dates of birth and death and a cross. Subsequently,
the tombstone was restored. His photograph by Alla Belenkova was
taken from http://www.m-necropol.ru/.
The island between
the East Siberian and Chukchi seas. Officially
opened on August 17, 1849 by Captain G.
modestly called it “Land of Kellett”. The
modern name was given in 1867 by the noble captain of the Nile
whaling ship T.
Long: “The first information about the existence of the found
land was communicated to the world-educated lieutenant of the
Russian fleet Ferdinand Wrangel ... I called it Wrangel Land,
wanting to bring due tribute to this man”.
The island in
the Krestova Bay on the west coast of the northern island of Novaya
and named in August 1822, by F.P. Litke.
the Chukchi Sea on the coast of Alaska east of Cape Barrow.
Taimyr east of Lake Rusanov.
the north-east of Ellesmere Island in the Robson Strait.