London Times, 14 November 1857, p. 8: RUSSIA. (From our Berlin correspondent.) Berlin, Nov. 11
The activity that has reigned through the naval departments of the Russian empire, and also in the shipbuilding yards of the commercial marine, with a view to repairing the loss inflicted on its naval resources during the last war, has been very great indeed; and may, if not wholly, certainly for the greater part be attributed to the untiring energy of the Grand Duke Constantine. This activity of the Grand Duke appears not to be confined to the mere spurring on of lazy officials or the execution of practical business, but to the scientific improvement and development of the forces under his command. It was only very lately that, at the request of a French naval officer who was compiling a polyglot nautical dictionary, and desired to collect the Russian sea-phrases, he selected two particularly well qualified Russian officers to work out a fulfillment of the Frenchman's request. In the course of the summer two squadrons have been despatched, -- viz., to the Pacific Ocean and to the Black Sea, each of them consisting of six screw corvettes. The Pacific Ocean squadron consists of the Wojewoda, Navik, Bojarin, Plastin (marksman), Dschigit (hero), and Trelot (arrow), to which is attached the screw frigate Askold, which is to be at the special disposition of Admiral Count Putiatin. The object of this squadron is to protect and advance the interests of Russia in the Chinese and Japanese waters; and before it sailed from Cronstadt was especially visited and inspected by the Grand Duke and Duchess Constantine. Captain Kusmetzoff, under whose command this Pacific squadron has been placed, takes with him the most extensive and careful instructions with a view to advancing the knowledge of the geography and the navigation of the coasts of the Pacific Ocean.
The Black Sea squadron consists, as above mentioned, of six screw corvettes -- Ryas (lynx), Udan [?] (sea snake), Subr (bison), Wehr (boar), Buiwol (buffalo), and Wolk (wolf), the first three of which, under the command of Captain Ligatscheff, arrived off Sebastopol on the 18th of September. The population of this town has in this year attained to 15,000 souls, a large portion of whom are old sailors, who have returned to the ruined object of their late courageous defence, after having their wounds cured or having spent a short time of absence in the north of Russia. The American company that has contract for raising the vessels sunk in the harbour has undertaken to complete its operations in the course of two years; the emolument the Americans are to receive is to consist of one half of the proceeds of the vessels raised. The Minister of the Interior has lately issued a circular to the inhabitants of the whole empire for the purpose of inciting them to subscriptions for the impoverished inhabitants of the Crimea and the southern provinces. In addition to Sebastopol, Eupatoria, Kertch, and Balaklava, there are no less than 100 villages laid waste, which looks very much as if the Tartar population had availed themselves of the presence of the allies to wreck their vengeance on the "Moscows," and although the Emperor, in addition to the gratification and bounty of the military, has already allotted 1,500,000 of roubles, and private charity has also done much towards the alleviation of distress there, there is still nearly as much to be done.
The report lately sent in by Lieutenant Lund, who, at the command of the Governor-General of Finland, made a tour of inspection through that province for the purpose of ascertaining and reporting on what was doing in the ship-building yards on the coast of the Bay of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, shows that there are now being built there a screw frigate of 50 guns and a screw corvette of 13 guns, both for the Imperial navy; 57 merchant vessels of an aggregate capacity of 338,700 tons, on which 3,000 shipwrights are employed, and there is a further large number of smaller vessels, from 50 to 100 tons, being built on the banks of the Saima [?] lake and canal, and along the coasts of the Gulf of Bothnia, the Bay of Finland, and the Aland Isles.
The losses which the Russian marine has suffered in this year from natural causes seem also to have almost rivalled those entailed upon it in preceding years by the state of war; and as the language of our marine policies says, the losses arising from "God's will" and those from the Emperor's enemies" seem to be nearly equal. There have been vessels launched at Archangel so leaky that they could not live an hour in the sea; others from the same latitudes that contrived only by incessant labour at the pumps and frequent repairs of the engines to put into some Danish port on their passage to the Bay of Finland; and numbers have foundered, or, at least, have gone aground in the difficult navigation of the Sound and Belts. The greatest losses of all, however, have been sustained in the late equinoctial gales, and in consequence of the thick fogs that visit the Bay of Finland and the Baltic at the approach of winter; the only mitigation to these losses is the circumstance that they occurred late in the autumn, when the navigation was nearly over for the year. In that fearful conflagration which I lately reported to you as having taken place among the shipping in the river Wolchow, at the entrance to the lake of Ladoga, there were no less than 39 vessels burnt and 131 sunk, 91 floats of timber burnt, and 225 injured. Had not a steamer and different parties of shipwrights been as prompt as they were in their assistance the loss must have been much more fearful, as there were no less than 172 vessels and 245 floats of timber at hat time in the Wolchow. The damage done as it was amounts to 300,000 silver roubles.
The line-of-battle ship Lefort, which lately capsized in broad noonday in the Bay of Finland, when closely surrounded by numerous vessels of the fleet on their way from Reval to Cronstadt, has since been examined by English divers at the order of the Russian Government. It will probably be still in the recollection of your readers that the vessel had, in addition to about 800 troops and crew, 400 passengers on board, chiefly women and children, who, with quantities of bulky house furniture, occupied the whole 'tween decks. Out of consideration for these unwonted passengers the portholes of the man-of-war had been left open, and when a sudden squall came on could not be closed in time; and so, when the wind took her the vessel heeled over, filled, and at once capsized. Such persons as were on deck at the time were of course at once washed away, but the divers found no less than 1,100 corpses in the cabins 'tween decks, and in the hold of vessel, all clinging to some portion of the timbers of the ship, or to each other. The horror of this fearful sight appears to have been to have been aggravated by the circumstance that the bodies were already far gone in decomposition, and, with few exceptions, the eyes of all the corpses were wide open and glaring. The effect of this dreadful spectacle on the divers was such that one of them was totally unable for many days to recount the ghastly scene he had witnessed down in that hive of putrefying corpses; and on his persistent refusal to repeat his visit there was sent home.