In the 18th century, Alaska became an arena for competing naval powers to expand their interests. The Russians began the race to fill in the missing corners of the global map by expanding westward, establishing a foothold in Prince William Sound in 1785 by constructing a trading post on Hinchinbrook Island near the Alutiiq village of Nuchek. Other nations such as Spain and England followed, sending explorers and commercial enterprises of their own to secure their claims.
Wealthy nations such as Italy, Denmark, France, and Germany which did not have sufficient reach to colonize Alaska nonetheless sent representatives as seamen or scientists as participants in these expeditions. The United States did not pursue exploration of Alaska until after the land was purchased from Russia in 1867. When the Alaska Commercial Company took over the Russian America Company’s holdings, a slow trickle of American traders, prospectors, trappers, fishermen, missionaries and military personnel settled the coastal regions, but it was not until the 1880s that the U.S. government began to send reconnaissance missions to the largely unmapped Alaskan interior.