Kau Manor is one of the oldest manors in Estonia and is deeply entrenched in the history of the country. First mentioned in the Liber Census Daniae of 1241, Kau Manor’s thick and irregular walls indicate that it was once a medieval vassal stronghold. The main building was crafted in several stages, with lavish ornamentation added in the Baroque period.
Otto von Kotzebue (1787-1846) was a Baltic German navigator in Russian service. The son of August von Kotzebue, a famous playwright, he was born in Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia), then part of the Russian Empire. For much of his life, Otto von Kotzebue lived at Kau Manor, which is now in possession of many of his personal affairs, including maps, journals, and illustrations.
After attending the St Petersburg school of cadets, Otto von Kotzebue accompanied Adam Johann von Krusenstern on his voyage of 1803-1806. After being promoted to lieutenant, Kotzebue was placed in command of an expedition, outfitted at the expense of the imperial chancellor, Count Nikolay Rumyantsev, in the brig Rurik. In this vessel, with only twenty-seven men, including the naturalists Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz and Adelbert von Chamisso, and the artist Louis Choris, Kotzebue set out on July 30, 1815 to find a passage across the Arctic Ocean and explore the less-known parts of Oceania.
Proceeding via Cape Horn, he discovered the Romanzov Islands, Rurik Islands and Krusenstern Islands (today Tikehau), then made for Kamchatka, and in the middle of July proceeded northward, coasting along the north-west coast of North America, and discovering and naming Kotzebue Sound or Gulf and Cape Krusenstern in the remote Chukchi Sea. Returning by the coast of Asia, he again sailed to the south, sojourned for three weeks at the Sandwich Islands, and on January 1, 1817 discovered New Year Island. After further cruising in the Pacific Ocean, he again proceeded north, but severe illness compelled him to return to Europe, and he reached the Neva on August 3, 1818, bringing home a large collection of previously unknown plants and much new ethnological information.
In 1823, Kotzebue, now a Captain, was entrusted with the command of an expedition in two war ships, the main object of which was to take reinforcements to Kamchatka. There was, however, a staff of scientists on board the Russian sailing sloop Enterprise, who collected much valuable information and material in geography, ethnography and natural history. The expedition, proceeding by Cape Horn, visited the Radak and Society Islands, and reached Petropavlovsk in July 1824. Many positions along the coast were rectified, the Navigator Islands visited, and several discoveries made. The expedition returned by the Marianas, Philippines, New Caledonia and the Hawaiian Islands, reaching Kronstadt on July 10, 1826.