Retracing Humboldt’s footsteps through Sibiria

Science Trip on Irtysh
Prof. Gerhard Heide, professor for mineralogy and director of the geoscientific collection of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, will take part of the expedition in the steps of of Alexander von Humboldt through Sibiria from May 22 to June 10.

The aim of the expedition is the exploration of the geographical changes of the natural landscape in the region since the trip of Alexander von Humboldts.

The research group consists of 18 scientists, botanists and zoologists, mineralogists and geologists, limnologists and historians. The former managing director of the Berlin Museum für Naturkunde, Dr. Ferdinand Damaschun as well as  the geologist Carsten Eckert of the research centre „Schloss Friedenstein“ in Gotha also belong to the German group. The Russian academy of science has invited to the trip which is  co-organized  and cofinanced by the Freiberg‘s partner university of St. Petersburg Mining University. The whole project will finish with a book publication on Humboldt‘s collection and a „Humboldt-Intervention“ at the mineralogical collections of the natural history museum of Berlin on June 17. The research group will also attend the festival event of  TU Bergakademie Freiberg to  Humboldt‘s memory on June 14.

200 years ago, the Russian czar Nickolas I had asked the famous explorer to examine the state of the raw materials ressources of the Russian Empire. In particular, the focus of interest was on new platinum ressources in the Ural Mountain. Humboldt started his expedition on May 20 in Berlin and travelled to St. Petersburg and Moscow, then on the Volga to Kasan, afterwards through the Urals, through Sibiria and at last to the Caspian Sea. In about half a year, the 60-year-old scientist put back more than 15000 kilometres.

His companions were the doctor, zoologist and botanist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg as well as the chemist and mineralogist Gustav Rose. Humboldt mainly devoted himself  to geomagnetic and astronomical observations as well as to the physical geography. Following a suggestion of Alexander von Humboldt, the Russian government later on installed a network of measuring stations which grasped for example atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind direction and amounts of rain. Afterwards, the data served Humboldt again as an empiric base for his scientific book about Central Asia published in 1843.

Humboldt established several scientific disciplines, e.g. the physical geography, the study of landscape and the ecological plant geography. The observations of the German geographer also contributed to a better understanding of the geomagnetism. Humboldt’s work also had a particular importance for the development of mineralogy in general. In the Berlin Museum für Naturkunde, the findings which Humboldt brought from his Russia trip, are presented until today. During his whole life, Humboldt visited numerous countries, e.g. the Netherlands, England, France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Central America and South America.

The German mineralogists and their Russian colleagues will give speeches in different Russian towns, take part in conferences and, like Rose and Ehrenberg, work a lot on the spot and take samples. Two young artists, "asymmtry group", accompany the group and will produce documentary films which will be shown afterwards at festival events at the occasion of the 250-year-old anniversary of the scientist.

Contact Person: Prof. Gerhard Heide, +49(0)3731 / 39-2665

Prof. Gerhard Heide, 03731 / 39-2665
At the airport
At a presentation in St. Petersburg
Group Picture on an Island at the entry of the river Tobol in the Irtysh
Collecting Samples
Visit of a historical library.
Trip to an Architecture Museum
Illustrating the science trip on a road map.
Visit of a palaontalogical museum in Central Sibiria