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Karelin on Altai.

Trip to Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

“On the fourth day (August 1) we went to the Kurchum River. It is unusually fast, with a width of 15 to 50 fathoms. There are few fords. The shores are very wooded and abound with animals of various kinds. Especially a lot of bears, wolverines, lynxes, wild cats, martens, sables, squirrels (black), chipmunks and otters”

G.S. Karelin. 1840.

Travel Karelin in Kazakhstan.

Grigory Silych Karelin (1801 - 1872), with the exception of mariners, is perhaps the largest Russian traveler in the first half of the 19th century. But with all his fame, some mystery surrounds the name and especially the routes of his many travels. And this is due to the tragic event that occurred in the last year of his life.
Kind family man, for the last 20 years of his life he retired even from his relatives (so as not to interfere) in the distant and provincial Guryev, only to summarize his many trips and scientific research. And when the manuscripts of eleven volumes of descriptions of his travels were already ready, there was a fire that consumed all his work.
Heartbroken, seventy-year-old Karelin died that same year, unable to bear the loss of the results of his whole life. The loss for Russian science (and indeed for literature and history) is the greatest, given the exceptional talents of a traveler-researcher, his inquisitiveness, curiosity, indifference to everything, fervor of the heart, sharpness of mind, literary talent, accuracy and punctuality, finally.
There were random notes, separate letters sent to different ends to different people, memories of relatives.
And all this from the grandiose journeys of the great scientist. And as a sin, least of all from traveling in the east of Kazakhstan, in Altai. Karelin lived for six years in Semipalatinsk (1840 - 1845), traveling every summer along the vast edge from Omsk in the north to the western foothills of the Dzungarian Alatau in the south. He was especially addicted to the Altai Irtysh, to the mountains of Southern Altai, Zaysan, Tarbagatay.
More than once, in 1840 and 1843, he drove along the line Semipalatinsk - Ust-Kamenogorsk - Bukhtarma - Yarki (Krasnoyarsk, now it is gone - note by A.L.) - Bolshenarym - Narymsky ridge - Kurchum river - Lake Zaysan.
He sailed twice along the Irtysh River, rafting downstream of the fast river from the Ust-Bukhtarma fortress (it is now gone, but there is the cement settlement Novaya Bukhtarma - note by A.L.) to Ust-Kamenogorsk. From this line, he made forays deep into the Altai mountains, visiting Ridder, Ivanovsky and Serzhinsky squirrels, Uimon and the upper reaches of the Chui, Narymsky and Kurchumsky ranges, Lake Markakol. Many of his routes remained unknown, and in those of which he mentions there are many ambiguities.
Nerd and historiographer V.I. Lipsky in the late XIX-early XX centuries tried to trace the routes of Karelin in eastern Kazakhstan. He carefully and meticulously analyzed the samples collected by Karelin flora stored in the St. Petersburg Botanical Garden (tens of thousands of them), collected everything he could from a traveler’s preserved literary heritage: notebooks, letters, memoirs of relatives and colleagues, entries in the books of registration of postal stations and etc.
Much, of course, slipped away, but the fact that it was possible to recreate was published in a small edition in a long-forgotten book. A wide circle of readers and even local historians of East Kazakhstan on the journey of G.S. Karelin in our region almost nothing is known.
The more valuable are the preserved records of the traveler himself, especially since any retelling would lose all the subtleties of personal perception. Here are preserved fragments from notebooks and letters of Karelin about travels in Altai in a somewhat abridged form.
On August 10, 1840, Karelin, in a letter to the Moscow Society of Nature Explorers, reports from Ust-Bukhtarminsk (Bukhtarma): “On our way from the Ust-Kamenogorsk fortress to Bukhtarma we visited the Serzhinsky Squirrel, a very high mountain that lies 70 miles against the Feklistovsky outpost (Further along the way Karelin climbed the "icy hill", without a doubt it is Studenyukha (height 1795 m), lying northeast of Bukhtarma towards Zyryanovsk - note by A. L.)
Preparations were made in Bukhtarm for traveling around the Altai mountains industry called Narymskya gentle ridge that stretches within China. On July 29, having crossed the Narym River, they entered China and began to climb up the ridge. We climbed the steepness between rapids and precipices for seven miles, through a larch forest, interspersed with cedars, and stopped in the evening at the end forests. There was still about a verst to the top.
We settled down on the bank of the Terekty River, which we moved 20 times, and at sunny sunset we felt a strong cold. Grass and trees began to dress with hoarfrost, and water in the bucket froze ... After half an hour at a sunny sunrise, the muraves and trees, dropping their shroud, clothed themselves in bright green shining with pearl tears, and real alpine plants sparkled with beautiful rainbow colors. We climbed to the highest point of the ridge, Mount Jaydan, from where the whole Nor-Zaysan lake was clearly visible.
On the fourth day (August 1) we went to the Kurchum River. It is unusually fast, with a width of 15 to 50 fathoms. There are few fords. The shores are very wooded and abound with animals of various kinds. Especially a lot of bears, wolverines, lynxes, wild cats, martens, sables, squirrels (black), chipmunks and otters.
There are a lot of beavers on the Kaljar River, flowing from Lake Mark and flowing into the Upper, or Black, Irtysh. At first I wanted to go there: I had no more than 25 versts, but when I heard that the Guobdinsky Amban had put up three guards on the Lake Mark to watch the rebel Kyrgyz and Mongols, I left this intention out of fear; with me there were only 4 people of Siberian Cossacks.
We spent the night 15 versts from Kurchum in the rocks where the sable was chased, but he, having run into a hollow fallen tree, deceived us, gnawed his side and went into the stones. There was an alarm at night: a bear approached the tent, but soon left.
On the sixth day (August 3) we returned to the Narymsky redoubt. Taking this trip, for greater gain, I split up with the student Mr. Kirilov who accompanied me, sending him to the Nor-Zaysan Lake and to the Black Irtysh River. Two weeks later, he connected with me on Bukhtarm, enriched with 82 plant species that I did not meet.
In general, we acquired up to 200 species of plants, of which there are new, completely unknown to botanists. Student Kirilov, who overlooked the Lake Nor-Zaysan from the north and east and went deeper into China up the Black Irtysh, saw herds of wild horses, or horsemen (kulans, - note A.L.).
Having made sure that all kinds of animals would soon begin to catch on the elevated parts of the Altai Mountains, I sent the preparation G. Maslennikov to the distant mountains of the Biysk Uyezd to the village of Uimon and to the peaks of the Chuya River, ordering him to engage in the acquisition and preparation of birds and animals."
On August 22, 1840, Karelin wrote a letter from the Ust-Kamenogorsk fortress: "From Bukhtarma (meaning the Ust-Bukharminskaya fortress at the confluence of the Bukhtarma river into the Irtysh, - note. A. L.) I went by water along the Irtysh river, which reaches Ust-Kamenogorsk cutting through the Kalbinsk mountains, compressed by cliffs, it strives with extraordinary speed, so that, without taking up the oars, we sailed for 128 hours at a few hours.
Rock formations Unfortunately, by week when we examined the steering raft, we hit a stone protruding from the water near the tip of one island, and from a strong concussion several boxes flew into the water, two of which, together with my suitcase, disappeared forever.
We brought 27 bales of plants, 3 boxes of cooked skins, 2 chests filled with boxes with insects and 2 large boxes with minerals. If I were to ride in the mountains along which the slopes and climbs between Bukhtarma and Ust-Kamenogorsk are excessively dangerous and difficult, then I would have to take at least 10 horses.
As I managed to look around, the loss consists of a chest with plants and seeds, several boxes with insects, some of the tools and books I actually own. All my thermometers and one barometer died. However, I also have at least 12 boxes of natural history items: especially there are so many plants that they will make up 1000 species with previously sent.
Upon arrival in Ust-Kamenogorsk, I traveled with a student Kirilov around the neighborhood and to the Ridder mine for 85 miles to the north. They visited the glorious Ivanovo Squirrel, known as the Cross Mountain, which Ledebour so often mentions (the famous botanist who traveled around Altai in 1826 - note by A. L.) in his Flora of Altai.
But the time was already late: on August 19, very few faded plants were found there ... For the office of the Society, I acquired a collection of minerals from the Ridder and Kryukovsky mines with an accurate indication of the amount of silver, copper and lead contained in them.
I’ll deliver the same collection from the Zyryanovsky mine, from which samples have already been sent, but no painting has been attached." In the archive of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, detailed outlines of the coast of Lake Zaysan and the course of the Bukhtarma River from Chinggistaya (Chinese border post) to Ust-Bukhtarminsk, but with errors in details in the Zyryanovsky mine area, have been preserved. It remains unclear to me: was Karelin himself in Zyryanovsk.
Before him, from Ust-Bukhtarminsk only 50 miles, and his assistant Grigory Aleksandrovich Maslennikov, most likely, on his way to Uimon, drove through the Zyryanovsky mine. Three years later, in 1843, Karelin again travels along the Irtysh at the foot of the Altai Mountains. Here are some extracts from his notebook:
"June 1. Semipalatinsk.
June 15th. Shulba. Transportation three miles from Talitsa through the Irtysh. Sands on this side. Nice ferry. Convenient and shortest road.
June 16th. Deep, 22 versts. Ust-Kamenogorsk, 32 versts. Crossing the Irtysh.
June 18th. A lake near Ablaykent (the ruins of a Buddhist monastery on the left bank of the Irtysh in the Kalbin mountains - note A.L.). Sarbulatsky mine of Popov (320 Kyrgyz workers, poor production, from 30 to 40 gold per day).
June 19. Trinity mine Zobnin (60 people, mining 6.5 - 15 gold per day).
June 23, 24, 25, and 26. On army fishing (when Irtysh left Zaysan - A.L. note). I will mention sterlet. The main and most numerous fish is sterlet; its two genera: the first, ordinary, weighing up to 20 pounds (8 kg). Reaching the puda are called zaisangs (princes), but it is never caviar, and all fat. The color of the zaisangs is blackish, the real sterlet is gray-white. Then sturgeons, taimen, nelma, pike, perch, ide, tench, crucian carp, chebak, burbot.
3 July. Outpost Krasnoyarsky (Yarki), located on the right bank of the Irtysh. Cossacks drink tea twice a day. Usually brick; for the lack of it use:
1) Chagyr tea; these are last year's leaves of the heartbreaker (frankincense - A.L. note);
2) boron tea, 3) white-headed, 4) kizlyarka (all local plants - A.L. note).
July 8. Markakul Lake. 70 versts long and 25 wide (length exaggerated - note A.L.). Fish: speed up and grayling. Around and close coniferous forests: fir, larch and Siberian spruce. From here flows the river Kaljir. Chinese guard. The main trees are extreme thickness.
Directly through the mountains, miles 50, Bukhtarma river. On hot days, the lake, according to the fishermen, is sometimes covered with phosphorescent spots, ranging from a simple asterisk to several fathoms.
July, 12. Bright. Down by boat on the Irtysh River. Tavolzhanka. Redoubt Voroninsky. Dock Zyryanovsky mines.
July 14, 1843. Bukhtarma. Drive up Bukhtarma to the caves. These caves in the form of huge furnaces at the end of the spur of the limestone ridge, visible three miles away, were once glorious and famous. Above them were inscriptions. During the journey of Count Golovnin to China, the scientist accompanying him (Klaprot?)
Beat off an inscription that is no longer present ... Narrow passages led into vast temples, from which different passages led to other voids deeper underground. In two huge caves there were many stalactites. Since 1814, the caves began to gradually collapse, and 4 years before the sim, one of the servants in the Bukhtarma artillery garrison brought down the cannoner for fun and filled up the last passages. Now you can see holes in the size of the brow of the Dutch furnaces, but it’s impossible to climb through because of the endless collapse.
July 15. Bukhtarma: drove down the river in the afternoon. Connecting with Bukhtarma, the Irtysh, so quiet, becomes so fast that non-divers (boats are 5-6 years old and longer), spring, on two oars, with variable rowers, ripen from Bukhtarma fortress to the Ust-Kamenogorsk fortress at 6 o’clock, which will be about 20 versts per hour.
There are no gardens in Bukhtarm, although some fruit trees could have been successfully raised. In the front garden of the retired Major Andreev, a mighty jigdy tree grows, blooms and bears fruit, and even a much dreaky tree has risen: proof of the temperance of the local climate.
Bukhtarma is surrounded by mountains from all sides. Therefore, the color could not be upholstered." Karelin did not fail to note the peculiarities of the Siberian dialect: "The Siberian Cossacks instead of" screaming "have" roaring ", instead of" no "they have" netuk "," where ", and an uninterrupted" odnaka".
And that’s almost all that was left of the great explorer’s trip to Altai, not counting, of course, tens of thousands of samples of the flora he collected. He had a special passion for botany. G. Karelin lived in Semipalatinsk for another three years, traveling on different sides of the vast Steppe region, but there is no evidence that he was returning to Altai.

Naturalist writer, photo artist, local historian Alexander Lukhtanov.