Return to Alaska and Final Voyage

In August of 1806, the Neva returned to St. Petersburg and a year later was again sent to Alaska. The Neva stayed in the service of the Russian-American Company, sailing between Sitka and Kodiak and making voyages to Hawaii and the Siberian ports of Petropavlovsk and Okhotsk. In late August of 1812 the Neva left Okhotsk for what became its final voyage.

Bad luck started even before the ship’s departure from the Russian port of Okhotsk: a skiff with officials tasked with inspecting it overturned in the harbor, resulting in the deaths of 13 people. Contrary winds soon slowed the voyage and prevented a landing in either Unalaska or Kodiak. People aboard were short on water and fresh provisions, and 13 crew members and passengers died at sea. A short stop at the Resurrection Harbor in Prince William Sound allowed them to take in fresh water and repair the ship, and the crew decided to continue their voyage to Sitka. Finally, early January 1813 brought clear weather, and by January 8 the ship was only 20 miles from Sitka with Mount Edgecumbe’s shoreline on the left.  Confident in the ship’s course, the skipper Kalinin set the course and went below decks at 1am, but his rest was short.

At 5 am the cry went out that “the shore is under the bow” with Mount Edgecumbe to the right. The anchor was thrown out but had not been secured to the windlass. As the ship turned about, the rudder was knocked out by a rock and she went aground on submerged rocks and broke in half with survivors moving to the bow. By noon, the Neva had been “swallowed by the waves” and survivors clung to masts and other pieces of the ship.

Of 77 persons on board when the NEVA left Okhotsk, 15 died at sea and 32 drowned as a result of the wreck. 28 made it to shore. Fortunately, one of the survivors was able to start a fire with a flintlock pistol to keep them warm. For the next 24 their survival depended on items and provision either salvaged from the ship or procured from their surroundings. On January 24, one of two promyshlenniki who had been sent to look for rescue encountered a Native boy in a kayak and was taken to New Archangel. A week later a rescue party sent by Baranof evacuated the survivors and brought them to the fort.

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