South to the Great Steppe
In the summer of 1846 Yorkshire-born Thomas Witlam Atkinson arrived in St Petersburg with a plan to travel to some of the remotest parts of Siberia and Central Asia. An architect-turned-artist, he had decided to follow the advice of the great German geographer Alexander von Humboldt and seek permission to visit regions that few, if any, Europeans had ever seen before. Tsar Nicholas I himself approved the plan and Thomas left Moscow the following spring, armed with a royal passport.
A year later, having visited the Urals and the Altai Mountains in Western Siberia, he was back briefly, this time to marry Lucy Finley, an English governess he had met before he left the Russian capital. Only two days after their marriage they set off together from Moscow on a journey that would last almost six years, during which Lucy gave birth to their son. In total they travelled more than 40,000 miles – much of it on horseback – throughout Siberia and Central Asia, all the way to the Chinese border.
South to the Great Steppe describes Thomas and Lucy’s travels in what is today Kazakhstan and is one of the most remarkable travel stories of all time.
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