Fabian von Bellingshausen - Expedition to Antarctica

Fabian Gottlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen was born on September the 20th, 1778 and served as a naval officer in the Russian Empire. He also commanded the second Russian expedition to go around the world, and during this particular expedition became one of first three people to see Antarctica.

Bellingshausen was born to Baltic German family, ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern side of the Baltic Sea, in Lahetaguse manor in Saaremaa in Estonia, which was at that stage part of the Russian Empire. At the early age of ten years he was enlisted as a cadet in the Imperial Russian Navy. Then at the age of eighteen, he graduated from Kronstadt, a naval academy. From there he quickly rose to the rank of captain and due to his admiration of Cook’s voyages, he took the same route and served in Russia’s first circumnavigation of the earth. He completed this mission in 1806 aboard the vessel Nadezhda, or in English “Hope”, under Krusenstern. He commanded many different ships in his career in the Black and Baltic Seas.

In 1819 the Czar Alexander I commanded that an expedition to the polar region in the south take place, it was then that the authorities selected Bellingshausen, because of his prior experience, to lead it. They left Portsmouth in 1819 with two ships, Vostok being the main ship and Mirnyi the support vessel, and crossed the Antarctic Circle, one of the first since Cook. In January 1820 the group approached ice fields and there discovered Antarctic mainland.

Fabian Gettlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen’s diary, reports to the Russian Naval Minister and other papers can be viewed in the Russian State Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic in St. Petersburg in Russia. A.G.E. Jones, a British polar historian, carefully examined these documents with other log books and came to the conclusion that Bellingshausen was the first man to discover the much sought after Terra Australis. He also named islands he has found, Peter I, Leskov, Zavodovski and the Visokoi, as well as naming the neck of the land on the Antarctic mainland as Alexander Island.


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