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Vitus Bering

Vitus Jonassen Bering (also, less correctly, Behring) (1680-1741), Danish navigator, was born in 1680 at the town of Horsens[?]. In 1703 he entered the Russian Navy[?], and served in the Great Northern War. A series of explorations of the north coast of Asia, the outcome of a far-reaching plan devised by Peter the Great, led up to Bering's first voyage to Kamchatka. In 1725, under the auspices of the Russian government, he went overland to Okhotsk, crossed to Kamchatka, and built the ship Gabriel. In her he pushed northward in 1728, until he could no longer observe any extension of the land to the north, or its appearance to the east. In the following year he made an abortive search for land eastward, and in 1730 returned to St. Petersburg. He was subsequently commissioned to a further expedition, and returned to Okhotsk in 1735. He had the local craftsmen, Makar Rogachev and Andrey Kozmin, build two vessels, the St. Peter and St. Paul, in which he sailed off and in 1740 established the settlement of Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. From there he led an expedition towards America in 1741. A storm separated the ships, but Bering sighted the southern coast of Alaska, and a landing was made at Kayak Island[?] or in the vicinity. Bering was forced by adverse conditions to return quickly, and discovered some of the Aleutian Islands on his way back. He was afflicted with scurvy, and became too ill to command his ships, which were at last driven to refuge on an uninhabited island in the Commander Islands[?] group in the SW Bering Sea, where Bering himself and many of his company died. This island bears his name. Bering died on the 19 December 1741. It was long before the value of his work was recognized; but Captain Cook was able to prove his accuracy as an observer. Nowadays, the Bering Strait, the Bering Sea and the Bering Island bear his name.


  • 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
  • G. F. Müller, Sammlung russischer Geschichten, vol. iii. (St Petersburg, 1758)
  • P. Lauridsen, Bering og de Russiske Opdagelsesrejser (Copenhagen, 1885)

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