Our Beautiful World

Georg Steller

George Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746) was born in Windsheim, Germany, and given a strong
education for the time. After finishing his univesity work he went to Russia where he found work
as a naturalist for the Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg. It was from there that he went as
naturalist on Vitus Beringís last expedition into the ocean east of Siberia. Steller became the first
white man known to have stepped upon land that eventually became known as Alaska.

Steller only spent three days in North America but from that visit he made the first
descriptions of plants and animals in this land that was new to Europe.
From the "George Wilhelm Steller" page at www.goldengateaudubon.org

In 1741 two ships from Kamchatka, which is a peninsula in Russia, set sail to explore the island
of Bolshaya Zemlya. The ships were St. Peter and St. Paul. Later the two ships got separated
in a storm. St. Paul stayed on course but St. Peter got lost. St. Peter landed on an island that
is now known as Bering Island. St. Peter could not go back to Kamchatka because the storm
had done much damage to the ship.

Soon the food supply of the people that were on St. Peter began to run out. The people had
to kill sea otters, all kinds of birds, and seals. Only Georg Wilhelm Steller and a few others
managed to survive that winter. Georg Wilhelm Steller was a trained zoologist and an
official naturalist.

Georg Steller discovered a number of new animals after the winter including the Steller's jay,
the Steller's eider, the Steller's sea eagle, the Steller's sea lion, and the Steller's sea cow.
When Georg Steller discovered the Steller's sea cow Commander Bering's (the captain of
St. Peter) crew killed one because they mistook it for a giant seal. They decided to eat this
giant sea creature. The meat, when cooked, although it had to boil rather long, tasted
extremely appetizing and tasted a lot like beef.

A few days later Commander Bering's crew started to rebuild the boat which took about
one year. The crew ate many more Steller's sea cows before the ship was finished.
When Georg Steller and the others reached Kamchatka they told everyone about the
wonderful taste of the Steller's sea cow. Soon many people from the countries and islands
near Bering Island were coming there to hunt the Steller's sea cow. Twenty-six years later
the last Steller's sea cow was killed.
From "Steller's Sea Cow" by Kevin R. at http://www.welleby.org/stellers1.htm

The final four years of his life the hot-tempered Steller spent exploring and collecting pants and animals in Siberia. Few of the plants and animals he collected in Siberia actually got back to St. Petersburg. Steller himself never had the chance to publish a single paper. His own journals did reach the Academy and were published after his death.

Steller himself almost disappeared from history until Leonhard Stejneger, a Norwegian-American
naturalist, went to Alaska in the late 19th Century in search of a possible surviving Stellerís
sea cow. He did not find the mammal but he did find a life-long fascination with Steller and
over the next five decades retraced Stellerís steps, explored his life, discovered his long-lost
papers in Saint Petersburg and finally published the only biography of Steller in 1936.
By that time Stejneger himself was over 80 years old and had a petrel named for him,
one infrequently seen off our coast.
From the "George Wilhelm Steller" page at www.goldengateaudubon.org

 0. Main menu
 1. Preface
 2. Where on Earth is Kamchatka?
 3. Animals - Wildlife
 4. Birds - Birding
 5. Flora - The Flowers
 6. Sealife
 7. Valley of Geysers
 8. The Volcanoes of Kamchatka
 9. The Forests of Kamchatka
10. The Indigenous People
11. Vitus Bering, explorer

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