Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin

Birth: 1776


Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin (1776-1831) was a Russian vice-admiral born on the 20th of April 1776 in the village of Gulynki in the province of Ryazan, and received his education at the Cronstadt naval school. From 1801 to 1806 he served as a volunteer in the English navy. In 1807 he was commissioned by the Russian government to survey the coasts of Kamchatka and of Russian America, including also the Kurile Islands. Golovnin sailed round the Cape of Good Hope, and on the 5th of October 1809, arrived in Kamchatka.

In 1810, whilst attempting to survey the coast of the island of Kunashiri, he was seized by the Japanese, and was retained by them as a prisoner, until the 13th of October 1813, when he was liberated, and in the following year he returned to St Petersburg. Soon after this the government planned another expedition, which had for its object the circumnavigation of the globe by a Russian ship, and Golovnin was appointed to the command. He started from St Petersburg on the 7th of September 1817, sailed round Cape Horn, and arrived in Kamchatka in the following May. He returned to Europe by way of the Cape of Good Hope, and landed at St Petersburg on the 17th of September 1819. He died on the 12th of July 1831.

Golovnin published several works, of which the following are the most important: — Journey to Kamchatka (2 vols., 1819); Journey Round the World (2 vols., 1822); and Narrative of my Captivity in Japan, 1811-1813 (2 vols., 1816). The last has been translated into French, German and English, the English edition being in three volumes (1824). A complete edition of his works was published at St Petersburg in five volumes in 1864, with maps and charts, and a biography of the author by N. Grech.


1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 12

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