The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov

Billings (Billinks), Joseph (1761–1806)

Reference work entry

Billings (Billinks), Joseph (1761–1806) – captain commander of the Russian Navy. He was born in England, starting from 1766 was listed in the Royal Navy, participated in the third (and last) circumnavigation of J. Cook (1776–1780), and took part in the navigation of expedition ships in the Bering and the Chukchi seas. In 1783, he was accepted to the Russian Navy as a midshipman. As a lieutenant commander, he was appointed head of the “secret” North-Eastern Geographical and Astronomical Naval Expedition (1785–1793) aimed at research and survey of the shores of northeastern Siberia and the Aleutian Islands. His assistants were R. Gall, G.A. Sarychev, and K.T. Bering, V. Bering’s grandson. In 1786, B. arrived in Okhotsk and moved to Verkhnekolymsk where he started the construction of two ships, “Pallas” and “Yasashna,” on the bank of the Yasashna River. Three attempts (1787) to reach the East Siberian Sea from the mouth of the Kolyma and to round the Chukchi Peninsula were not successful because of severe ice conditions. However, the members of the expedition made the first, relatively precise, survey of the coast between the Kolyma River and Ayon Island (300 km). The expedition returned to Okhotsk. In 1789 B. discovered Saint Jonas’ Island in the Okhotsk Sea while moving from Okhotsk to Petropavlovsk on the ship “Slava Rossii” built in Okhotsk. In 1790 on the same ship, he navigated from Kamchatka to Kodiak Island (the northern shore of the Gulf of Alaska) and participated in discovery and survey of separate Aleutian Islands and in the research of the Gulf of Alaska coast. In 1791 he moved from Petropavlovsk to Unalaska Island and from there to St. Matthew Island and St. Lawrence Island and entered the Bering Strait. B. landed on the American coast close to Cape Rodney. Further the expedition moved to the Gvozdev Islands (the Diomede Islands) and Saint Lawrence Bay. In the same year, he passed the command over the ship to G.A. Sarychev and in winter 1791–1792 made a research trip around the Chukchi Peninsula as far as Chaunskaya Guba (Bay) together with a small company on reindeers. B. kept a register of all his expeditions and made 20 maps and plans all by himself. These became a base for inner Chukotka region maps created before 1931.

In 1793 after the end of the work, B. went to St. Petersburg together with G.A. Sarychev where they for 2 years were preparing a detailed report of the expedition. The report consisted of three books (each is about 2,000 pages), written in English and translated into Russian subsequently.

In 1795 he was moved to the Black Sea Fleet and appointed commander of the battleship “Apostle Andrey” with 50 cannons on board. In 1797–1798, he commanded the “Apostle Andrey,” and then on the transport ship “Rozhdestvo Bogoroditsy,” he participated in surveys of the northern shores of the Black Sea from the Kerch Strait to the Dniester mouth. B. compiled and published “The Atlas of the Black Sea” (1799). In 1799, he was appointed captain commander and retired.

He gave his name to a cape, a settlement, and a lagoon in the De Long Strait, the East Siberian Sea, a glacier in Chugach Bay, the Gulf of Alaska, the Pacific Ocean, and a cape in the Aleutian Islands, the Bering Sea, USA.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016