Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen #OnThisDay

On 16th of July 1819 Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen set sail to explore Antarctica for Russian Tsar Alexander I.

head and shoulders portrait of Bellingshausen
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen

Bellingshausen discovered Peter I and Alexander I islands in the South Sandwich Island group. These were the first sightings of land within the Antarctic Circle, thought at first to be part of the mainland. His account of the voyage was translated into English in 1945.

Bellingshausen was born in the Estonian island of Saaremaa (Ösel) Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen joined the Russian navy at age 10. He was part of the first Russian circumnavigation of the Earth in 1803–1806, serving on the merchant ship Nadezhda under the captaincy of Adam Johann von Krusenstern. After the journey, he published a collection of maps of the newly explored areas and islands of the Pacific Ocean. Subsequently, he commanded several ships of the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets.

He was an excellent cartographer. Map making and exploring was very important at a time when parts of the world were still unknown to the countries wishing to expand their empires. With his second in command Lazarev they became the first explorers to see the land of Antarctica on 27 January 1820.

Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen statue in Russian park
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, image credit A-Z.Anisimov, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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