Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/671

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Wiggins
Wiggins
661

White Island off the Yalmal Peninsula, and after reaching the mouth of the Ob, he was compelled to return owing to lack of provisions, expense, and the attitude of most of his crew. He reached Hammerfest on 7 Sept. and Dundee on 25 Sept. Though his route was already used by Norwegian fishermen and had been followed by the boats of Russian traders as early as the sixteenth century, his voyage called general attention to the possibility of establishing a new commercial route with large vessels. Wiggins expounded his results and opinions in lectures which won him a wide fame and thenceforth occupied him when on shore.

In 1875 he received private financial support and fitted out a sloop of twenty-seven tons for his next voyage. In her he reached Vardö on 27 July 1875, where he met the Russian admiral, Glassenov, and others interested in his work. He accompanied Glassenov, who promised to use his interest with the Russian government and merchants, to Archangel, where he obtained maps, rejoined his sloop, and worked her nearly to Kolguev Island, but thence turned back, the season being spent. Private munificence, partly British and partly Russian, rendered possible his third Siberian journey, in a steamer of 120 tons carrying an auxiliary launch. Saihng in July 1876, Wiggins inspected the Kara river late in August, and by 26 Sept., having found the Ob inaccessible owing to winds and current, was in the estuary of the Yenisei. On 18 Oct. his ship reached the Kureika (a right-bank tributary of the Yenisei, which it joins close to the Arctic circle), and was there laid up for the winter. Wiggins came home by way of St. Peters- burg, where he was received with honour without obtaining material help, went on to England, and next year started for Siberia (overland) accompanied by Henry Seebohm [q. v.] the ornithologist. At the Kureika his ship was with difficulty released from the ice, and sailed down stream on 30 June 1877; but she was in ill condition and was wrecked three days later. In 1878 O. J. Cattley, a merchant in St. Petersburg, sent Wiggins in command of a trading steamer to the Ob, whence a cargo of wheat and other produce was successfully brought back. Other vessels performed the like feat. But in 1879-80 the failure of some British and Russian trading expeditions, with which Wiggins declined to be connected, owing to the unsuitability of the vessels, checked public confidence in his design, and from 1880 to 1887 he carried on the ordinary vocations of a master mariner in other seas. In 1887-8 a small company, named after its ship, the Phoenix (273 tons), and backed by Sir Robert Morier [q. v.], British ambassador at St. Petersburg, sent Wiggins in command of the vessel on perhaps his most brilliant voyage from the point of view of navigation. He took her up the river to Yeniseisk, far above what was supposed to be the head of navigation for so large a ship, and left his brother Robert, who was his chief officer, on the river as agent. Another ship followed in 1888, but this voyage and the company failed. In 1890 there was carried through, although Wiggins was not in command, the first successful trans-shipment of goods at the river mouth between a river steamer and a sea-going vessel. In 1893 Wiggins, by arrangement with the Russian government, took command of the Orestes, a larger vessel than any which had hitherto reached the mouth of the Yenisei, and safely delivered a cargo of rails for the Trans-Siberian railway. She convoyed at the same time the yacht Blencathra, belonging to Mr. F. W. Leybourne-Popham, who planned a voyage to the Kara sea to combine pleasure and trade. Acquiring an interest in the Siberian route, Mr. Leyboume-Pophara helped in financing Wiggins's subsequent voyages. For this voyage of 1893 Wiggins was rewarded by the Russian government. Next year, after convoying two Russian steamers to the Yenisei, Wiggins was shipwrecked near Yugor Strait, and, with his companions, made a difficult land-journey home, when the Royal Geographical Society awarded him the Murchison medal. In 1895 he made his last voyage to Yeniseisk. Next year he failed to get beyond Vardo, and the failure involved him in some undeserved censure. In 1897-9 he was voyaging in other seas, and as late as 1903 he navigated a small yacht to Australia for the use of an expedition to New Guinea. In 1905 the Russo-Japanese war had begun and famine was rife in Siberia. The Russian government planned a large relief expedition by sea, and invited Wiggins to organise and lead it. In the organisation he took as active a part as failing health permitted, but when the ships sailed he was too ill to accompany them. He died at Harrogate on 13 Sept. 1905, and was buried at Bishopwearmouth. In 1868 he married his first cousin, Annie, daughter of Joseph Potts of Sunderland; she died without issue in 1904.