The Coveted Pacific Coast

Russian, British and Spanish Plans

The Russian Presence

In spite of all the fears elicited by the Russians, their presence in Alaska was much more limited than had been thought. They had only a few small trading posts and a tiny population, and maintained neither troops in garrison nor warships from their navy. But the English, Spanish and French explorations eventually worried the imperial authorities, and in December 1786 Czarina Catherine II ordered the Imperial Navy to organize an expedition to the Alaskan coast. Foreign merchants were to be expelled and Russia's sovereignty proclaimed over the whole of the territory north of the 55th parallel (north of the Queen Charlotte Islands) by means of markers, officially taking possession, and warship patrols. Detailed scientific and cartographical surveys were also to be carried out. The Russian admiralty assigned four warships and a supply ship to the expedition, with a total of 34 officers, 639 sailors and soldiers, and some scientists on board. Command was assigned to Captain Gregorii Ivanovich Mulovskii, a talented officer who was only 29 years old. The expedition was to leave in 1789 and return in 1791, but at the end of the summer of 1787 war broke out between Russia, Turkey and Sweden and the Empress cancelled the operation.