GEORG STELLER’S LASTING LEGACY
The naturalist who discovered Steller’s sea cow was born Georg Wilhelm Stöller in Windheim, Germany, in 1709, and moved to Russia in 1734. Joining Bering’s Great Northern Expedition in 1740, he discovered several new species, including Steller’s sea lion, Steller’s eider ( below), Steller’s sea eagle, Steller’s jay and the spectacled cormorant, as well as the famous sea cow. His navigational skills proved critical in findingng Alaska, where he became thee first non-native to set foot, whileile his scientific knowledge enabledabled his companions aboard the St Peter to escape scurvyy by feeding on thee vitamin C-richh leaves and berries he’d gathered – though many ignored this advice and over half the crew perished from this condition. Steller was also notably ahead of his time in the respect he showed towards the native peoples that the expedition encountered, whose cultures he rigorously documented. Indeed, his sympathy for the native Kamchatkans during his subsequent travels led to his imprisonment, accused of fomenting rebrebellion. He died of a fever on 14 NoNovember 1746, at the age of justjus 37, while travelling back to St Petersburg. After hhis death, Captain James Cook was amonamong many expexplorers to use his notes and jojournals.
Steller found the sea cow ( left) and it helped keep him alive.