Ca. 1838-1846, 1848-1854. A Folio (ca. 37,5x23 cm) and a Large Quarto (ca. 31x19 cm) journals. 136 (18 blank) and 45 (16 blank) leaves. Brown and black ink on wove and laid paper. The Quarto journal with red ink corrections of dates in text. Folio journal: period brown quarter calf with marbled papered boards and a colour-lettered title on the spine. Quarto journal: period style brown quarter calf with marbled papered boards and a colour-lettered title on the spine. The Folio journal with neatly repaired cracks on the spine, but otherwise a very good set of journals written in a legible hand.
Historically significant collection of two manuscript meteorological journals, likely period administrative copies, recording air temperature, winds, atmospheric pressure and a number of particular weather events observed in two settlements of Russian America in the 1830s-1850s. The Folio journal contains over 230 pages of meteorological data (on ca. 118 leaves filled in on recto and verso), collected in St. Paul’s Harbour (now the city of Kodiak) – the largest settlement on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Founded in 1792, it became the first capital of Russian America (until the capital’s relocation to New Archangel/Sitka in 1804) and remained the administrative and commercial centre of Kodiak after the Alaska Purchase in 1867.
The main body of the “St. Paul’s Harbour” journal covers the chronological period from December 12, 1838 to September 20, 1843 and contains information on the date and hour of observation (8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm and 8 pm), air temperature (on the Reaumur scale), weather conditions (clear, overcast, cloudy, rainy, foggy, snowy, &c.), and the strength and directions of the wind. A separate, thirteen-page table records air temperature in January 1839 – February 1841; an uncompleted five-page table records air temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind direction and weather conditions (in French) in January-April 1846.
The Quarto journal includes two manuscripts occupying over sixty pages and recording weather in the Russian Orthodox mission on the Kuigpak (lower Yukon) River from September 1, 1848 to February 1850, and from September 12, 1853 to June 24, 1854. Russian American Company established a fur trading post on the lower Yukon River near the Yupik village of Iqugmiut in 1837, which enabled a convenient overland crossing to the lower Kuskokwim River. Russian Orthodox mission was founded there in 1845 by Aleutian missionary Jacob Netsvetov (1802-1864). Born on Atka Island, in 1825, he became the first native Aleutian priest of the Russian Orthodox Church and served on the Atka Island for over ten years, where he built a church and a school. In 1845-57, Netsvetov developed the Kuigpak Orthodox mission, continuously travelling along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and building a church in Iqugmiut village in 1851. For his missionary works, Jacob Netsvetov was canonized by the Orthodox Church of America in 1994. The journal covers the early period of the settlement’s existence and falls completely within Jacob Netsvetov’s tenure at the mission.
The entries include the information on the date of observation (most likely, given in the Old Style; the red ink corrections apparently add the dates in the New Style), the height of mercury in the barometer (at 6 am, 12 pm, and 6 pm), the strength and direction of the wind, and “the state of weather” (clear, overcast, cloudy, rainy, fog, snow, &c.). A column titled “Special notes” includes over fifty longer or shorter entries reporting various events, recorded in the mission: the dates of the first snow, the first ice and the breaking of the ice on the Kuigpak and Kuskokwim Rivers and near St. Michael Redoubt in the Norton Sound, aurora borealis, moon halo, extreme cold and snow storms, the number of fish spotted in the rivers during a particular fishing season, hunger among the natives, epidemics, wildfires, an earthquake in the nearby Paimiut village, &c. A separate page describes the weather in January 1854 (temperatures, winds, aurora borealis). Overall an important content-rich original source on the history of climate change and meteorological observations in Russian Alaska in the first half of the 19th century.
Excerpts from the “Special Notes” in the Kuigpak Mission’s journal:
“1 September 1848. There was very little fish in the autumn in the Kuskokwim and Kuigpak Rivers and their tributaries. Generally, the year of 1848 was a hungry one, many natives left their homes in hope of bigger abundance in other places, but there they also found shortage. There was an epidemic in the second half of this month, similar to the one in the summer of 1851, but in a weaker degree, - a strong cough with prickling pain in the stomach, but there were not many cases of death. On the 16th, the first snow fell and covered the ground for ¼ of arshin.
29 October 1848. The Kuigpak is covered entirely with ice.
July 1849. Around the second half of the month, there were frequent fogs with the smell of the burning forest.
October 1849. On the night from the 30th to the 31st there was a bright aurora borealis.
January 1850. During the winter of 1849-50, there was an extremely small number of fish in the Kuigpak, Kuskokwim and their tributaries. Many natives moved to different sites in the hope of bigger abundance, but also found hunger there.
30 January 1830. The cold was so cruel that even local dogs, used to strong frosts, were dying. <…>
September 1853. On the 19th the ice appeared on the Kuigpak opposite the Nulato odinochka [post]. <…> On the 24th the ice appeared on the Kuigpak opposite Iqugmiut.
25 October 1835. For the first and last time this year, a few lampreys were caught. This fish can be found only in Kuigpak and runs in abundance in the autumn, but there are years, like this one, when there is no lamprey run.
1 November 1853. In the native village of Paimiut (100 verstas from the mission to the east), an earthquake was felt from S. to N. Earthquakes are rare here, and the previous one happened more than sixty years ago.
1 December 1853. A bright whitish round near the moon.
1 March 1853. Strong snowstorm and blizzard from 4 pm.
13 March 1853. Bright aurora borealis from midnight to sundown.
April 1854. The winter of 1853-1854 here in Iqugmiut, in the St. Michael Redoubt (about 600 or 700 verstas to the WNW from Iqugmiut), in the Nulato odinochka (600 and more verstas from Iqugmiut to NNW if sailing up the Kuigpak, but much less [if going] straight) and along the entire coast of the Bering Sea, was not cold, and a rare abundance of reindeer was observed. We encountered numerous herds of them. Fish was also abundant, except for lampreys, which didn’t come at all this year.
8 May 1854. The sea [near St. Michael Redoubt] is covered with snow and ice, and natives ride across in dogsleds without trouble. But if looking from Cape Stephens through the spyglass, quite large patches of open water are seen far from shore.
11 May 1854. At 1 pm the ice broke on Kuigpak and partly stopped.
25 May 1854. Kuigpak has cleared from ice, but sometimes the river carries trees.
29, 30 and 31 May 1854. The river carries a lot of trees and debris.
30 May 1854. The last ice was carried away by the wind from WSW, and the sea is completely cleared near St. Michael’s Redoubt. By the ten-year observations and notes of Russians, who have lived here for a long time, it can be said that Kuigpak by one month and the sea near St. Michael’s Redoubt by six weeks free of ice later than the Neva River in St. Petersburg. In 1845 at St. Michael’s Redoubt the sea was freed from ice on May 24. In 1849 – on June 14. In 1853 – on May 31. The summer of this year (1853) was cold and rainy, but the spring was early and warm."