Voyaging Towards the Future: the Brig Rurik in the North Pacific and the Emerging Science of the Sea
This article explores the networking activities of Count Nikolai Rumiantsev and Adam von Krusenstern, his close collaborator. The visionary Russian statesman and the celebrated navigator were deeply involved in northern exploration. They funded and organized a circumnavigating voyage by the brig Rurik in 1815–18, with the explicit goals of searching for a northern passage between Eurasia and North America and conducting a series of scientific investigations in the Bering Strait region. This private exploratory enterprise profoundly influenced the exchange of information and reconfigured both local and global networks of knowledge. Based on an analysis of private correspondence, printed accounts and journal articles related to the Rurik’s expedition, this study sheds light on how this transnational network of actors emerged and functioned, and how it promoted a lively circulation of information about exploration in the Bering Strait region in the 1810s–1820s. I argue that a complex interplay of geopolitical and intellectual competition, with exchanges, collaborations and coordination among various actors (e.g. patrons, navigators, scholars, entrepreneurs and publishers), stimulated further research on the global ocean’s northern spaces and laid the foundations of marine science.