An assistant to Vitus Bering in the First Kamchatka Expedition, the first European to reach the northwest coast of America, a cartographer, nobleman Aleksei Chirikov was born on December 24, 1703.

Aleksei Chirikov was born to a poor noble family in the village of Luzhnoye, Tula province, currently the Dubna district of the Tula region. At the age of 12, he graduated from the Moscow School of Mathematics and Navigation and continued his maritime studies. At the age of 18, he graduated from the St. Petersburg Naval Academy and was assigned to the Baltic Fleet with the rank of non-commissioned lieutenant and a year later he returned to the Academy to teach navigation.

In 1724, Peter the Great signed a decree establishing the permanent Russian fleet in the Pacific Ocean. In order to find locations for future ports, to explore the Far Eastern waters and islands, they began to prepare the First Kamchatka expedition under the leadership of Vitus Bering. With the rank of lieutenant, Aleksei Chirikov joined the expedition as an assistant commander. Along the expedition, Aleksei Chirikov determined 28 astronomical points – with the help of this information, for the first time it became possible to establish the actual longitude of Siberia.

After returning from the First Kamchatka Expedition, Vitus Bering started geting ready for a new voyage, which is now called the Great Northern Expedition. Aleksei Chirikov became one of its leaders. Two ships – the "Saint Peter" and "Saint Paul," led by Bering and Chirikov, respectively, sailed from Okhotsk to the eastern coast of Kamchatka in the fall of 1740. The expedition spent the winter in Avacha Bay, which was named after the ships – Petropavlovskaya Bay.

The ships set sail for the shores of America on June 4, 1741. Two weeks later, on June 20, due to storm and fog, the ships lost each other and continued the expedition separately. Aleksei Chirikov sailed straight to the east, and on July 15, the sailors saw America. While trying to disembark, the crew lost both lifeboats that were on board. The cause of their disappearance is still unknown, the main assumptions is that it could be tidal currents of a whirlpool or an attack by Indians. Having lost the lifeboats, it became impossible to replenish water supplies and Chirikov decided to return to Kamchatka. On the way, the crew members began to die of exhaustion – only 49 of 68 men returned to Kamchatka. During the journey Aleksei Chirikov fell ill with tuberculosis.

In 1742, Aleksei Chirikov took part in the search of the "St. Peter" ship, the one he had parted with at the beginning of the expedition. Bering's crew was never found, although Chirikov mapped St. Julian Island, where Bering's expedition was located.

Since 1746, Aleksei Chirikov headed the Naval Academy in St. Petersburg. In 1748, at the age of 44, he died of tuberculosis.


Based on open sources

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