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p. SI, weight for depth—and a few others of a similar kind, which, though trifling in themselves, are unbecoming in a book of science. Upon the whole, the gallant Colonel has, with great credit to his own skill and accuracy,
'read us matter deep and dangerous,
As full of peril and adventurous spirit
Art. VIII.—A Memoir on the Geography of the North-Eastern
part of Asia, and on the Question whether Asia and America
are contiguous, or are separated by the Sea. By Captain James
Bumey, F.R.S. From the Philosophical Transactions, 181S.
CCEPTICISM in matters of religion is generally productive of
•^ bad consequences—in those of science it is just the contrary;
by provoking inquiry it frequently leads to the detection of error,
and always stimulates to the discovery of truth—for in science, as
in jealousy, ' to be once in doubt, is once to be resolved.' la
the view of the subject we are glad that Captain Bumey has
Sinted his doubts and conjectures; and we seize with pleasure e early opportunity which his ' Memoir* affords us of discussing two points of the last importance to the northern expeditions now pending,—namely, the existence of a circumvolving current from the Pacific to the Atlantic—and, of a north polar basin.
The situation which Captain Burney held of lieutenant in the Discovery, when Captain Cook attempted to pass Behring's Strait into the arctic sea, his reputation as a compiler of ancient and scarce voyages into the South Seas, and his extensive reading and deep research in matters of this kind, are calculated to give his opinions a more than ordinary weight, and to entitle them to the fullest respect and consideration. Captain Bumey is, besides, in general so orthodox, that we are unwilling to let his present heresy pass without notice, and, as we flatter ourselves, without refutation; more especially as, if his conjectures are well founded, all the past and present expeditions for the discovery of a northern passage into the Pacific will have been employed, not only on a hazardous, but on an impossible enterprize. It may be right to premise, that the appearance of this ' Memoir' in the Philosophical Transactions affords no sanction whatever for the opinions contained in it; as the ' Committee of Papers' distinctly state in an 'Advertisement' prefixed to each part of those Transactions, that 'it is an established rule of the Society, never to give their opinion, as a body, upon any subject, either of nature or art, that eomes before them;' and further, that they pretend not' to answer
for for the certainty of the facts, or propriety of the reasonings, contained in the several papers published (by them), which must rest on the credit or judgment of their respective authors.'
The opening paragraph of Captain Burney's ' Memoir' contains the whole of the question on which we are at issue with him.
'A belief has prevailed for nearly a century, that the separation of America and Asia has been demonstrated by an actual navigation performed; and it is distinctly so admitted in the charts. It is proposed to shew in this Memoir, in the first place, that there does not exist satisfactory proof of such a separation; and secondly, that from peculiarities which have been observed, there is cause to suppose the fact to be otherwise; that is to say, that Asia and America are contiguous, and parts of one and the same continent. This is not an opinion newly formed, but one which many years ago was impressed on other persons as well as on myself, by circumstances witnessed when in the sea to the north of Behring's Strait, with Captain Cook, in his last voyage.'—p. 1.
With regard to the doubt expressed of Deschnew's voyage by sea round the north-east point of Asia, the first observation that occurs to us is the internal evidence, which the Memoir affords, of Captain Burney having confined his researches, respecting Deschnew, to the English translation of Muller's account of Russian discoveries; in which, as we are informed by Coxe, that of the voyage in question ' is extremely erroneous in some material passages.' In the passage quoted by Captain Burney, however, it is neither erroneous nor obscure;—and, we should have thought, not easily capable of misconstruction. It runs thus: 'Deschnew, in relating his adventures, speaks only incidentally of what happened to him by sea. We find no event mentioned till he had reached the great cape of the Tschutski. His relation begins at this cape. It lies between the north and north-east, and turns circular towards the river Anadir. Opposite to the cape are two islands, on which were seen men through whose lips were run pieces of the teeth of the sea-horse. With a favourable wind one might sail from here to the Anadir in three days and three nights.' Captain Burney could not pretend that the cape or promontory here described is any other than that to which Cook gave the name of' Cape East,' in Behring's Strait; but he seems to insinuate that, as this was not thefirst cape to be doubled in going from the Kovyma (Kolyma, he calls it, following Muller) to the Anadir, the passage had been made by land. Indeed Muller says, still quoting Deschnew's account, 'this was not the first promontory that occurred to which they had given the name of Swiastoi Noss ;'—on which Captain Burney observes, 'the word Swicetoi signifies sacred, and is a name suitable to a promontory which could not be doubled.' But Coxe tells us that Swati-noss is applied to any cape by the Russians which is difficult to double: the one in question, therefore, might 1well be so called by Deschnew, as he failed to double it in the first attempt; and there was no reason why he should afterwards change the name; for, as Captain Burney admits,' it may naturally Jbe imagined that it was given before the difficulty had been surmounted.'
Had Captain Burney looked into ' Coxe's Russian Discoveries,' a very common book, he would there have found some of the most material notices of Deschnew's voyage translated, at the author's request, from the original Russian, by Professor Pallas; and we have too high an opinion of his candour to suppose that he would have persevered one moment in a fancy which must have entered his mind as hastily as it has heedlessly been adopted. One of the passages translated by Pallas is as follows :—' To go from the river Kovyma to the Anadyr, a great promontory must be doubled which stretches very far into the sea: it is not that promontory which lies next to the river Tschukotskia.' The two islands, and the inhabitants with pieces of the sea-horse's teeth m their under lips, are then mentioned;' and the little river Stanovie, which flows into the sea near the spot where the Tschutski have erected a heap of whalebones like a tower;'—all of which wene verified, first by Behring and afterwards by Cook, the latter of whom observed, in a Tschutski village a little to the southward of East Cape,' a kind of sentry box or toreer, composed of the large bones of large fish,' besides stages ten or twelve feet high 'wholly composed of large bones.'* The Americans also immediately opposite, as well as the natives of the two islands, have since been found to use the lip ornaments of bone. That Deschnew was in Behring's Strait, therefore, is most fully proved; and the only question is how he came therei1 Captain Burney seems disposed to think by land, though Deschnew himself says distinctly, ' that he was ordered to go by sea from the Indigirka to the Kovyma, and from thence to the Anadyr, then newly discovered; that the first time he sailed from the Kovyma, he was forced by the ice to return to that river; but that next year i\r again sailed from thence, and after great danger, misfortunes, and the loss of part of his shipping, arrived at the mouth of the Anadyr.' Had Captain Burney met with this passage, (which is found in Coxe,) we hardly think he could have entertained the smallest doubt of Deschnew having gone by sea, which is the more strongly pointed out by his observing—' that Stadukin and Soliverstaff' (who had laid claim to the discovery of the country
* Cook'i Inst voyage, vol. ii. p. 451.
near near the mouth of the Anadyr) 'went thither from the Kovyma by land.' It is this voyage which appears to have misled Captain Burney. Stadukin is reported to have sailed with ninety men in a kotsche from the Kovyma towards the great cape of the Tschutski; his people, not being able to double it, crossed over, on foot, to the other side, where they built other vessels. From this it is evident (and we know the fact to be so) that a kotsche is a regular built vessel, not to be taken in pieces, and carried over land, like a baiadar, as Captain Burney seems to infer. But Deschnew's vessels were all kotsches. It would be strange indeed if Deschnew had gone up the Kovyma, taken his vessels in pieces, carried them over the neck of land, then down the Anadyr, and yet suppressed all mention of such an operation: at any rate, he would not have placed his voyage by sea in contradistinction to that of Stadukin by land. Besides, on such a supposition he could not have come near the East Cape, but must have passed it four or five hundred miles to the eastward. Deschnew further observes, after relating his voyage, 'that the sea is not every year so free from ice as it was at this period.'
We are at a loss to conceive what can have given rise to Captain Burney's doubts as to the fact of Deschnew's voyage, unless he questions the authenticity of the papers altogether; for, supposing them to be genuine, his scepticism has not the slightest foundation. Surely he does not mean to infer- that because the Tschutski informed Behring that' their countrymen who traded with the Russians on the river Kovyma always went thither by land with their merchandize on sledges, drawn by rein-deer, and that they had never made the voyage by sea,' that Deschnew therefore did not make his voyage by sea ?—What has the Russian navigation to do with that of the Tschutski—a miserable people whose territory produces not a tree nor a shrub, and whose canoes are made of fishes bones? and why should they attempt the icy sea in these wretched machines, when they can reach their destination by land, across the isthmus, in less than a third part of the distance by water?
But' the" particular most worthy notice' (Captain Burney says) is, 'that the Tschutski people themselves do not appear, from any of the accounts which have been published, to know the extent of their country to the north.' It would be a ' particular' more worthy notice, if they did; and it is not a little remarkable that Captain Burney should expect it from a people who, by his own account, 'would not explore farther north than afforded a prospect of reward for their pains.' Do the savages of New Holland, we would ask,—do the Hottentots of the Cape—do the more
civilized tribes of African negroes, or of the Eskimaux of Greenland—do any one of these know the extent of their respective countries? Nay, what does Captain Burney think of the resident servants of the 'Hudson's Bay Company,' who know no more of the country twenty miles to the northward of their northernmost settlement than they do of Terra del Fuego r*
The doubts of Peter the Great (if he had any) respecting Deschnew's voyage would have been excusable in 1728, when he planned a voyage of discovery to inquire into'the separation, contiguity, or connection of Asia with America.' The voyage which had ascertained this point was performed butonce, and eighty years had elapsed since that event; andwhatdid Russia care about eastern Siberia and the Tschutski at that early period? Deschnew and his voyage had been long neglected, and perhaps were wholly forgotten in 1728; nor was it till 1736 that Muller discovered and brought forward the original documents of that and some other expeditions which had been buried among the archives of Yakutsk. But when the value of the Siberian provinces came to be understood, it was to be expected that Peter would wish to ascertain the boundaries of his immense dominions, which in his time were undefined. The imputed doubts, therefore, would, as we have said, be pardonable in the Czar, though, after the discoveries of Behring and Cook, which corroborated all that Deschnew had stated, they are altogether unreasonable in Captain Burney.
This brings us to the second point of Captain Burney's creed, which is still more extraordinary than the first, as it is in direct opposition to the facts stated in the journals of Captains Cook, Clerke, Gore, and King; nay, we are bold enough to conjecture, directly at variance with the journal of Mr. Burney, who, forty years ago, was lieutenant in the Discovery; and we are therefore inclined to believe, that the opinion, now for the first time made public, ' that Asia and America are contiguous, and parts of one and the same continent,' is the result of trusting too confidently to a recollection, which such a lapse of time may well be supposed to have impaired. Here, however, we have some grounds stated for this heterodoxy. 'The first extraordinary circumstance noticed,' says Captain Burney, ' on arriving in Behring's Strait, was a sudden disappearance of the tides;' the second, that 'there was little or no current, nor could it be perceived that the water either rose or fell;' and the third, that ' the bottom, not being swept by streams, was of soft ooze.' On the first two points,
• The prejudice seems still to exist against this Company for concealing information. This, we can venture to assert, has not been the case for many years past. The truth is, they have nothing to tell. They have been unfortunate in their servants; but had poor Semple not been basely murdered, he would have redeemed their (/-edit.
vOL. XvIII. NO. XXXvI. E E - W*