Alexander Middendorf named our peninsula Taimyr

Alexander Middendorf named our peninsula Taimyr

August 18, 2023

In 1842, the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences instructed the traveler and scientist Middendorf to organize an expedition to Northern and Eastern Siberia.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. During this journey – from 1842 to 1845 – he discovered the Putorana plateau, became the first explorer of the Taimyr peninsula, the North Siberian lowland, the Amur-Zeya plain, the Stanovoy range, the lower part of the Amur basin, the southern coast of the ​​Ohotskoye sea, the Uda-Tugur Ohotsk region, Shantar islands.

Alexander Middendorf

Middendorf’s report on the expedition was for that time the most complete natural history description of Siberia.

During his expedition, Alexander Middendorf passed from Dudinka through the upper reaches of the Pyasina to Hatanga, then crossed the peninsula along lake Taimyr and the Upper and Lower Taimyr rivers. From the name of this largest lake and rivers in the territory, Middendorf spread the toponym to the entire peninsula:

“…By the name of the Taimyr, for brevity, I call the country adjacent to them, stretching to the west to the Yenisey, to the east to Hatanga, to the south almost to the Syverma mountain range”.

Middendorf was not the first explorer of Taimyr: exactly 100 years before Middendorf, the detachments of the Great Northern Expedition led by Semyon Chelyuskin and Hariton Laptev described the peninsula and put it on the first map. But the peninsula did not have one name and was referred to in the documents as “the northern part of Siberia between Hatanga and Pyasina”, “the land between the Lena and Yenisey rivers”, simply Pyasida and even Baida.

The Yenisey province map. 1882

What does the word ‘Taimyr’ mean? In most sources, the toponym is attributed to the Evenk ‘tamura’ – ‘valuable, precious’. But there are other options as well. For example, from the Nenets language ‘tai meray” it is translated as ‘bald, bare’. And in the Nganasan language, ‘taa mire’ means ‘deer paths’.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we told that the literary father of the famous captain Vrungel was a convict of Norillag.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

August 18, 2023

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