Georg Wilhelm Steller was a German botanist, zoologist, physician and explorer, who worked in Russia and is considered a pioneer of Alaskan natural history. Steller was born in Windsheim, near Nuremberg in Germany, son to a Lutheran cantor named Johann Jakob Stöhler and he then traveled to Russia as a physician on a troop ship returning home with the wounded. He arrived in Russia in November 1734 and he met the naturalist Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmidt at the Imperial Academy of Sciences. Two years after Messerschmidts death, Steller married his widow and acquired notes from his travels in Siberia not handed over to the Academy, Steller knew about Vitus Bering’s Second Kamchatka Expedition, that had already left Saint Petersburg in February 1733. He volunteered to join it and was accepted and he then left St Petersburg in January 1738 with his wife who decided to stay in Moscow and go no farther. Steller met Johann Georg Gmelin in Yeniseisk in January 1739, Gmelin recommended that Steller take his place in the planned exploration of Kamchatka. Steller embraced that role and finally reached Okhotsk and the expedition in March 1740 as Berings ships the St. Peter. In September 1740, the sailed to the Kamchatka Peninsula with Bering. Steller went ashore on the east coast of Kamchatka to spend the winter in Bolsherechye, where he helped to organize a local school and began exploring Kamchatka. When Bering summoned him to join the voyage in search of America, after Berings St. Peter was separated from its sister ship the St. Paul in a storm, Bering continued to sail east, expecting to find land soon. Steller, reading sea currents and flotsam and wildlife, insisted they should sail northeast, after considerable time lost they turned northeast and made landfall in Alaska at Kayak Island on Monday 20 July 1741. Bering wanted to stay long enough to take on fresh water. Steller argued Captain Bering into giving him time for land exploration and was granted 10 hours. Of the 6 species of birds and mammals that Steller discovered during the voyage, Stellers jay is one of the few species named after Steller that is not currently endangered. In his brief encounter with the bird, Steller was able to deduce that the jay was kin to the American blue jay, although Steller tried to treat the crews growing scurvy epidemic with leaves and berries he had gathered, officers scorned his proposal. Steller and his assistant were some of the few who did not suffer from the ailment. On the return journey, with only 12 members of the able to move and the rigging rapidly failing. Almost half of the crew had perished from scurvy during the voyage, Steller nursed the survivors, including Bering, but the aging captain could not be saved and died
Image: Haliaeetus pelagicus San Diego Zoo aviary 8d
Steller's Arch on Bering Island
A 2009 memorial to Steller in a riverside park in Tyumen, Siberia, where he had died of fever at age 37.