Mikhail Levashov’s “Atlas of Views of Kamchatka and Aleutian Islands” is the earliest atlas of the Aleutian Islands. The collection of images, the majority of which represent the coast line and were created with the goal to aid mariners’ orientation and navigation in this part of the world, was the result of the 1765-1771 expedition commanded by the captain P.K. Krenitsyn. The expedition’s major goal was to study the north coast of Siberia, the Aleutian Islands and Alaska Peninsula. In 1768, the hooker Sv. Pavel captained by Krenitsyn, and galliot Sv. Ekaterina under Levashov sailed from Bol’sheretsk to Alaska. Soon after their departure, the ships got separated and rejoined only in Unalaska. Both ships continued east reaching Unimak and the Alaska Peninsula. Krenitsyn decided to stay on Unimak, while Levashov spent winter in Unalaska, where he observed the local indigenous culture and recorded it in journal entries and drawings. The Atlas’ images of Unangan/Aleut people, their habitations, technology and material culture were most likely created during this time. Both ships returned to Kamchatka in July of 1769 and were on route to Okhotsk when Krenitsyn’s sudden death put the expedition to the end.
Levashov returned to St. Petersburg, arriving on October 22, 1771 with rich collection of charts, journals, and ethnographic and research notes assembled by the expedition. The Empress Catherine II made some of these materials available to the British historian B. Robertson, who included them in his book The History of America in 2 Volumes, published in London in 1777 г. The first Russian publication about the expedition appeared only in 1781. The major part of the expedition materials, including Levashov’s Atlas, remained unpublished up until 20th century, and is only partially available in print even today.
Sources and literature:
I. V. Glushankov, Ekspeditsiya kapitanov K. Krenitsina i M.D.Levashova k Aleutskim ostrovam [Expedition of the Captains K. Krenitsin and M.D. Levashov to the Aleutian Islands], М., 1972.
R. G. Lyapunova, Etnograficheskoe znachenie ekspeditsii kapitanov P.K. Krenitsina i M.D.Levashova na Aleutskie ostrova (1764-1769) [Ethnographic significance of the expedition of the captains P.K. Krenitsin and M.D. Levashov to the Aleutian Islands (1764-1769)], Sovetskaya Etnografiya, 6 (1971)
P. Sokolov, Ekspeditsiya k Aleutskim ostrovam kapitanov Krenitsna i Levashova, 1776-1769 [Captains Krenitsin and Levashov’s expedition to the Aleutian Islands]. Zapiski Gocudarstvennogo departamenta Morskogo ministerstva 1852 (X).