Chirikov, Aleksey Ilyich (1703–1748)
Chirikov, Aleksey Ilyich (1703–1748) – a Russian explorer and captain-commodore. During the First and Second Kamchatka Expeditions, together with V. Bering he discovered the northwestern coast of North America and a number of islands of the Aleutian Chain. In 1715, he entered the Naval School, and a year later, he was transferred to the Naval Academy, which he graduated at the top of his class. At the orders of Peter the Great, for his achievement in the sciences, Ch. was promoted to unterlieutenant and appointed to serve on the ship “Peter” of the Baltic Fleet. A year later, at the orders of the Admiralty College, he was assigned to the Naval Academy as a teacher of seamanship and navigation. In 1724, he was appointed second deputy of V. Bering in the First Kamchatka Expedition (1725–1730) and promoted to lieutenant. Since then, his efforts have been devoted to solving the state task of exploring and developing of maritime routes in the Far East.
In 1728, on the boat “Saint Gabriel,” he navigated from Nizhnekamchatsk, across the Bering Strait, into the Arctic Ocean to the latitude 67°19′N. He participated in the mapping of the Chukchi Peninsula and in the discovery of Kresta Bay, of St. Lawrence Island, one of the Diomede Islands, and Preobrazheniya Bay. In late 1728–early 1729, under the direction of Ch. Chaplin, the final map of the First Kamchatka Expedition was drafted and in 1730 presented to the Senate. In 1732, he was promoted to Captain of 2nd rank.
In 1733–1741, during the Second Kamchatka Expedition, Ch. served as deputy to V. Bering and since 1741 as chief of the expedition. In 1733 he was promoted to Captain. In 1741, commanding the packet boat “St. Paul,” he became the first European to reach the northwestern coast of North America at Cape Bartolome, near Baker Island. He discovered the Alexander Archipelago. Navigating to the northwest along the American continent for about 450 km, he examined and mapped its coast. On the way back, he discovered and mapped a number of islands of the Aleutian Chain (Adak, Agattu, Attu, et al.). In 1741, he sent a report on the results of the voyage to the Admiralty Board, enclosing a map and the history’s first description of the northwestern coast of North America. In 1742, after wintering in Petropavlovsk harbor, Ch. repeated his voyage to the east toward the shores of America, but only reached Attu Island, became the second (after V. Bering) to discover the Commander Islands, and returned to Petropavlovsk in July. Two weeks later, he went to Okhotsk and, in 1742, he arrived in Yakutsk.
In 1743, he received the order of the Senate to “discontinue his sea voyages,” and, together with his crew, he moved to Yeniseysk. In 1746, after spending 18 years of his life studying Siberia and the Far East, he returned to St. Petersburg. Soon he was appointed director of the Naval Academy. Under his guidance, a group of naval officers prepared a number of completed maps based on the information from the expedition. At the end of 1746, he was transferred to Moscow as head of the Admiralty office due to health-related reasons. In 1747, he was promoted to captain-commodore.