Bering, Vitus Jonassen (vēˈtŏs yōˈnäsən bārˈĭng) [key], 1681–1741, Danish explorer in Russian employ. In 1725 he was selected by Peter I to explore far NE Siberia. Having finally moved men and supplies across Siberia, Bering in 1728 sailed N through Bering Strait but sighted no land and did not recognize the importance of the strait. Later in 1728, setting out from Kamchatka, he was driven from his course and discovered the southern route around Kamchatka. He returned to St. Petersburg, arriving in 1730. With government support, Bering then oversaw the exploration and mapping of the far reaches of Siberia. Bering himself headed an expedition across the sea to Alaska. In 1741 he commanded the St. Peter while Aleksey Ilich Chirikov (d.1748) commanded the St. Paul. They set out, rounded Kamchatka, founded the town of Petropavlovsk, and then sailed west. The vessels were separated. Bering sighted the St. Elias Mts. in Alaska on July 16, and the scientist Georg Wilhelm Steller led a landing party. Sailing W past the Aleutian Islands, the ship was wrecked on the shore of Bering Island, which they mistook for the coast of Kamchatka. There on Dec. 8 Bering died. The few survivors managed to reach Kamchatka in the summer of 1742.
See F. A. Golder, Bering's Voyages (2 vol., 1922–25); G. F. Muller (1986) and C. Urness (1987).
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