Talk at the Geological Society


In January 1847 Charles Austin (1819-1893) and Thomas Atkinson (1799-1861) set out together on a journey across Russia and Siberia. Over the next year, the men would share carriages and horses, posthouses, hovels and yurts as they made their way through the Urals, the Altai Mountains and the Great Steppes of Central Asia, following in the geological footsteps of the great Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) who had led a famous expedition to the area in 1829.

However, by the winter of 1847-1848 Charles and Thomas had separated. Thomas travelled back to Moscow to marry a young woman he had met in St Petersburg and Charles, having also returned to St Petersburg for a marriage,  headed on further east, eventually arriving in Irkutsk, Siberia. There he set out for the remote and foreboding convict settlement and mining colony of Nerchinsk where he soon ran into trouble. Suspected of being a spy, Charles was hunted down by Cossacks and thrown into prison. In contrast, Thomas and his new wife Lucy would spend almost six years travelling throughout Siberia and Central Asia, becoming well-known figures in these far-off outposts of the Russian Empire.

Join us for this incredible adventure with Nick Fielding, a freelance author and journalist whose most recent book is South to the Great Steppe: the travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan 1847-52 (FIRST Magazine Ltd., 2015)

During this special evening, there will also be an opportunity to view some of the Library’s historical collections on the geology and mineralogy of Imperial Russia, and to see the mysterious, geological map Charles drew of Eastern Siberia, the earliest made of the region.


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