Luka Alekseevich Voronin (1785-1794) was born on February 17, 1765. In 1785 he graduated from the Russian Academy of Art in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the diploma of “An Artist of Animals and Birds.” The same year, Voronin was appointed as an expedition artist for the North-Eastern Geographical and Astronomical Expedition under the command of George Billings. The expedition was organized with the goal of exploring the coasts of eastern Siberia and northwestern North America, and as such was a combination of overland scientific journeys and sea voyages. Voronin participated in both. He accompanied Billings on his voyage from Kolyma River to Bering Strait, travelled with the naturalist Carl Henrich Merk from Yakutsk to Okhotsk, sailed on expedition ship Slava Rosii from Okhotsk to Petropavlovsk, and journeyed by dog sled across Kamchatka.
On May 9, 1790 the Slava Rossii set its course east towards the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak and Prince William Sound, returning to Petropavlovsk on October 14, 1790. A second voyage to Alaska took place the following year. After spending 2 weeks on Unalaska Island the expedition sailed north, stopping at St. Lawrence Island and reaching Cape Rodney on July 28, 1791. Billings, Merck, Bakov and Voronin, went ashore, becoming the first Europeans to set foot on the North American mainland in the area of Bering Strait. The rest of the year was spent travelling in Chukotka and collecting both natural and ethnographic information about the peninsula.
The expedition returned to St. Petersburg in 1794 with a wealth of textual, ethnographic and pictoral materials. Two accounts on the expedition were published by Lieutenant Gavriil Andreevich Sarychev, and one by Billings’ secretary Martin Sauer. All three were illustrated with engravings based on Voronin’s sketches, but the British engraver of Sauer’s account took credit as the original artist. A good portion of the materials assembled during this expedition, however, remains unpublished. Only excerpts of Billings’ account were published in Russian and English. Similarly, only a portion of Luka Voronin’s images illustrating this voyage has been reproduced. The known body of original hand-drawn images is split between several archival collections. An album of 39 drawings entitled Album of drawings of views of the Chukchi Sea, Kolyma River, Kuril and Aleutian islands and shores of Kamchatka, drawn from nature during the voyage of ships Pallas and Yasashnyi from 1787 to 1797 and images illustrating Billings’ journals are in the holdings of the Russian Naval Archives in St. Petersburg, Russia. Seven drawings of Chukchi and Chukotka can be found in Georg Merk’s manuscript Bescheibung der Tschucktschi von ihren Gebrauchen und Leben Art Aufgesetzt von G. Merk curated at the Russian National Library.
After returning to St. Petersburg, Voronin was appointed draftsman at the drafting cabinet of the State Admiralty in St. Petersburg, where he worked until 1819.
Sources and Literature:
Carl Heinrich Merck. Bescheibung der Tschucktschi von ihren Gebrauchen und Leben Art Aufgesetzt von G. Merck, manuscript. St. Petersburg: Russian National Library, n.d.
Carl Heinrich Merck. Siberia and Northwestern America, 1788–1792. The Journal of Carl Heinrich Merck, Naturalist With the Russian Scientific Expedition Led By Captain Joseph Billings and Gavriil Sarychev. Translated by Fritz Jaensch, edited, with an introduction by Richard A. Pierce. Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1980.
Sarychev, Gavriil A. Puteshestvīe flota kapitana Sarycheva po severovostochnoi chasti Sibiri, Ledovitomu moriu i Vostochnomu okeanu, v prodolzhenie osʹmi liet, pri Geograficheskoi i astronomicheskoi morskoi ekspeditsii byvshei pod nachalʹstvom flota kapitana Billingsa s 1785 po 1793 god.[Travels of Naval Captain Sarychev in the Northeastern parts of Siberia, Icey Sea and Eastern Ocean, during eight years, while in service of the Geographic and astronomic sea expedition commanded by Naval Captain Billings]. St. Petersburg: Tipografiya Shnora, 1802.
Sarychev, Gavriil A. Puteshestvīe kapitana Billingsa chrez Chukotskuiu zemliu ot Beringova proliva do Nizhnekolymskago ostroga, i plavanīe kapitana Galla na sudnie Chernom Orle po Severovostochnomu okeanu v 1791 godu: s prilozheniem slovaria dvenadtsati nariechii dikikh narodov, nabludeniya nad stuzheyu v Verkhnekolymskom ostroge, i nastavlenīya dannago kapitanu Billingsu iz Gosudarstvennoi admiralteistv-kollegii. [Travels of Captain Billings across the Chukchi land from the Bering Strait to Nizhenakolymsk fort, and voyage of Captain Gal on the ship Black Eagle across the Northeastern Sea in 1971: with an addition of dictionary of 12th indigenous languages, observations on cold temperatures at the Verkhnekolymsk fort, and the instructions given to the Captain Billings by the State Naval Department] St. Petersburg: Morskaya Tipografiya, 1811.
Sarychev, Gavriil A. Account of a Voyage of Discovery to the North-East of Siberia, the Frozen Ocean and the North-East Sea. (Amsterdam, N. Israel; New York: Da Capo Press, 1969), v. 1-2
Titova, Z.D. Ethnograficheskie materialy Severo-Vostochnoi ekspeditsii, 1785-1795 [Ethnographic materials of the North-Eastern Expedition, 1785-1795] Magadan: Magadanskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1978.
Luka Voronin. Al’bom risunkov i vidov beregov Chukotskogo morya, reki Kolymy, Kuril’skikh I Aleutskikh ostrovov I Kamchatskogo berega. [Album of drawings and views of Chukchi Sea, Kolyma River, Kuril and Aleut Islands and Kamchatka coast] Russian Naval Archives, 1787-1790