Isaak Iselin in Hawaiʻi, 1807

Comparing sources I – Task

From the mid–18th to the mid–19th century, the North Pacific Ocean was dominated by an imperial Russian presence (present–day Alaska was a part of the Russian Empire). The agents of empire were often co–opted natives from Siberia and Alaska such as the Aleuts and the Kamchadals. The Russian network of settlements and forts was rather loosely knit, however, as their main purpose was to hunt for fur—especially that of the sought–after sea otter—for the Chinese market.

Although somewhat forgotten in non–specialist historiography, Russian ships visited Hawaiʻi on a regular basis, especially in the period from 1800 to 1820. There was even a short–lived attempt to add the Hawaiian Islands to the Russian Empire in 1816. A so–called «Russian Fort» on Kauaʻi is the remainder of that episode. Iselin was well aware of the Russian presence, which he mentions on several occasions.

Iselin private archive Basel, § 103 (bag), envelope I, journal part 3, p. 26.

Iselin private archive Basel, § 103 (bag), envelope II, edited journal, p. 48.