Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Wrangell, Ferdinand Petrovitch, Baron von
WRANGELL, Ferdinand Petrovitch, Baron von, Russian navigator, b. in Pleskau, Esthonia, 29 Dec., 1796; d. in Dorpat, Livonia, 10 June, 1870. He was educated in the school for cadets at St. Petersburg, entered the naval services in 1812, and was attached to the scientific expedition to Siberia and Kamtchatka in 1817. He was appointed in 1820 to command an expedition to explore the Russian polar seas. Sailing from St. Petersburg, he arrived, on 2 Nov., 1820, at Nijnii-Kolvmsk, and performed, early in 1821, a remarkable journey to Cape Schelagin on sledges drawn by dogs. He sailed afterward up Kolyma river, advancing about 125 miles into the interior, through the territory inhabited by the warlike Yakutes. On 10 March, 1822, he resumed his journey northward, and travelled forty-six days on the ice, reaching 72º 2' north latitude. He left Nijnii-Kolymsk on 1 Nov., 1823, and arrived at St. Petersburg, 15 Aug., 1824. In 1825 Wrangell, who had been promoted commander, made a journey around the world on the sloop-of-war “Kratkoi,” and on his return to Kronstadt in 1827 was appointed governor of Russian America (now Alaska). He repaired to his post early in 1829, by way of Siberia and Kamtchatka, and on his arrival devoted all his energy to developing the resources of the country. After thoroughly reforming the administration, he introduced the culture of the potato, opened and regulated the working of several mines, and urged upon the home government the organization of a fur company. He foresaw also the great future of the country, endeavored to induce capitalists to invest money there, and sent missionaries to the remotest districts. He likewise began a survey of the country, opened roads, built bridges and government buildings, and promoted the civilization and improvement of the natives. He also made valuable geographical and ethnographical observations, which he embodied in a memoir to the navy department. Being recalled in 1834, Wrangell made his return by way of the Isthmus of Panama and the United States, where he visited several cities. He was promoted rear-admiral in 1837, and made director of the ship-timber department in the navy office, which post he held for twelve years. He became vice-admiral in 1847, but resigned in 1849, and temporarily severed his connection with the navy to assume the presidency of the newly reorganized Russian American company. He was always opposed to the cession of Alaska to the United States, and wrote several memoirs upon the subject. In 1854 he re-entered active service and was made chief director of the hydrographical department of the navy, chief assistant in 1855 to the high admiral, Grand Duke Constantine, member of the counsel of the empire in 1858, and in 1859 admiral and general aide-de-camp to the czar, Alexander II. The continent that Wrangell sought was discovered in 1855 by the English navigator, Capt. Thomas Long, and is named Wrangell Land. An account of the physical observations during his first journey was published in German (Berlin, 1827), and also in German extracts from Wrangell's journals, “Reise laengs der Nordküste von Sibirien und auf dem Eismeere in den Jahren 1820-'4” (2 vols., Berlin, 1839), which was translated into English as “Wrangell's Expedition to the Polar Sea” (2 vols., London, 1840), but the complete report of the expedition appeared two years later: “Otceschewie do Sjewernym beregam Sibiri, po Ledowitomm More” (2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1841), and was immediately translated into French with notes by Prince Galitzin, under the title “Voyage sur les côtes septentrionales de la Sibérie et de la mer glaciale” (2 vols., 1841). From the French version an English one was made under the title “A Journey on the Northern Coast of Siberia and the Icy Sea” (2 vols., London, 1841). He also published “Otscherk puti is Sitchi w' S. Petersburg” (1836; French translation under the title “Journal de voyage de Sitka à Saint Pétersbourg” (Paris, 1836; English version from the French, entitled “Journal of a Voyage from Sitka to St. Petersburg,” London, 1837); and “Nachrichten über die Russischen Besitzungen an der Nordwestküste America's” (2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1839), better known by the French version, “Renseignements statistiques et ethnographiques sur les possessions Russes de la côte Nord-Ouest de l'Amérique” (Paris, 1839), which was translated into English under the title “Statistical and Ethnographical Notices on the Russian Possessions in North America” (London, 1841).