Captain Yuri Lisianski

In August 1803, Imperial Russian naval officer Yuri Lisianski (1773-1837), captain of the sloop-of-war “Neva,” and Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern, commander of the frigate “Nadezhda,” embarked from Kronstadt, Russia, on the first Russian circumnavigation of the Earth.

The ships then sailed westward across the Atlantic Ocean, around Cape Horn and into the Pacific, reaching the Hawaiian Islands in June 1804.

While the ships drifted off the Big Island’s southeastern coast between June 8 and June 11 without dropping anchors, Hawaiians boarded the “Nadezhda,” but little trading was done.

Then, on June 11, the ships separated, with “Nadezhda” sailing to Kamchatka, Russia, for repairs, and with “Neva” entering Kealakekua Bay on that same day.

Following a six-day visit to the Big Island, “Neva” set sail for O‘ahu, where Lisianski hoped to meet Kamehameha I.  

However, he bypassed that island upon learning of a deadly epidemic raging there and sailed on to Kaua‘i instead.

When “Neva” reached Waimea on June 19, King Kaumuali‘i came on board and was elated to learn from Lisianski that Kamehameha’s army, which had been preparing to invade Kaua‘i, had been stricken by the epidemic.   

Kaumuali‘i then told Lisianski he was determined to defend Kaua‘i with 30,000 warriors, cannon, and powder, yet as a precaution, he also asked Lisianski for materials to complete his escape vessel, which Lisianski refused.

Likewise, Lisianski also declined Kaumuali‘i’s appeal for protection from Kamehameha in return for a promise to supply food to Russian settlements at Kamchatka and Alaska.

But, Kaumuali‘i did not need to have been concerned, for the epidemic on O‘ahu that Lisianski had informed him of had destroyed Kamehameha’s army, thus ending Kamehameha’s ambition of ever conquering Kaua‘i by force.

“Neva” departed Kaua‘i the following day and completed its circumnavigation, with “Nadezhda” at Kronstadt in 1806.


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