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Faddei Faddeevich (Fabian) Bellingshausen (1778–1852)

by C. M. Hotimsky

This article was published:

Faddei Bellingshausen, n.d.

Faddei Bellingshausen, n.d.

Faddei Faddeevich (Fabian) Bellingshausen (1778-1852), admiral and explorer, was born on the island of Oesel in the Gulf of Riga. In 1803-06 he took part in the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe under the command of Captain I. F. Krusenstern. In 1819 he was appointed to command the first Russian expedition to the Antarctic with instructions to go as near to the South Pole as possible. At the same time Mikhail Nikolaevich Vasiliev (1770-1847) was ordered to explore the north polar areas and to seek a passage through Bering Strait into the Atlantic. The Antarctic expedition in two sloops, the Vostok commanded by Bellingshausen and the Mirny under Mikhail Lazarev, sailed from Kronshtadt in July 1819 stopping at Portsmouth, where the commanders obtained chronometers and other instruments and called on Sir Joseph Banks. In December 1819 they surveyed in greater detail the South Georgia Islands, discovered several islands and determined that Sandwich Island, so classified by James Cook, was an archipelago.

On 11 April 1820 the Vostok arrived at Port Jackson, following Vasiliev who had been there from 2 to 28 March. They were well received by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, as the Colonial Office had instructed, and were given permission to establish their observatory on the North Head. With Bellingshausen was the astronomer Ivan Mikhailovich Simonov (1794-1855) of the Kazan University, who was studying the earth's magnetism. He compiled a detailed account of his scientific observations during the voyage. On 19 May Bellingshausen sailed for the Sandwich Islands and made further discoveries, notably Ono Island in the Fiji group. On 21 September the sloops returned to Port Jackson for supplies and on 12 November sailed for the Antarctic continent. On this voyage they discovered Peter I Island and Alexander I Land and explored and mapped Macquarie Island. Their charts of the Antarctic were so accurate that the British Admiralty used them until 1931. The sloops returned to Russia in July 1821; Vasiliev followed in August 1822.

In the meticulous narrative of his expedition Bellingshausen described New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, revealing himself as a shrewd and independent observer. After his return to Russia Bellingshausen took part in the Turkish campaign of 1828-29. In 1839 he was appointed military governor of Kronshtadt. He died at Neva in 1852. Apart from the discovery of numerous islands and other areas in the south Pacific the expedition carried out important researches in oceanology, oceanography, and Antarctic and tropical climatology. Dr Hugh Mill, an authority on the history of the Antarctic, said 'the voyage of Captain Bellingshausen was one of the greatest Antarctic explorations, well worthy of being placed beside that of Cook'.

Select Bibliography

  • H. R. Mill, The Siege of the South Pole (Lond, 1905)
  • F. Debenham (ed), The Voyage of Captain Bellingshausen to the Antarctic Seas, 1819-1821, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1945)
  • N. N. Zubov, Otechestvennye Moreplavateli—Issledovateli Morei i Okeanov (Moscow, 1954)
  • C. M. Hotimsky, Russkie v Avstralii (Melb, 1957)
  • Entsiklopedicheskii Slovar' (St Petersburg, 1892)
  • Biografichefeskii Slovar'deiatelei Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki (Moscow, 1958-59)
  • M. N. Vasiliev, ‘Remarks on NSW’, Zapiski Admiralteiskogo Departmenta, 1823
  • C. M. Hotimsky, ‘F. F. Bellingshausen’, La Sentinelle no 361, Jan 1956, pp 5-6
  • Sydney Gazette, 4 Mar, 1 Apr 1820.

Citation details

C. M. Hotimsky, 'Bellingshausen, Faddei Faddeevich (Fabian) (1778–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Faddei Bellingshausen, n.d.

Faddei Bellingshausen, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


Oesel, Russia


1852 (aged ~ 74)
Neva, Russia

Cultural Heritage

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