Vitus Bering

From the title page of 'Account of the Russian discoveries between Asia and America'

Bering and Tschirikoff's expedition from 'Account of the Russian discoveries between Asia and America'

Discoveries after Bering from 'Account of the Russian discoveries between Asia and America'

The titlepage and text above come from a book about Russian discoveries. It was written in 1780 by a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. It starts with Vitus Bering's discoveries, claiming that they led to all the others. Click on the pictures to see more.

"This expedition led the way to all the important discoveries since made by the Russians."

The Danish explorer Vitus Bering served in the Russian Navy. In 1724 the Russian ruler, Peter the Great sent him to find out whether Asia was joined to America. Bering crossed Siberia to the Pacific. There he built a boat and explored the water between the two continents.

In 1728 he discovered the Bering Strait, the narrow channel of water that separates Siberia from Alaska. He ended the doubt about whether Asia and America were joined by land or separated by water. Bering’s discovery also proved that the Northeast Passage existed. The picture below shows Alaska from a 1755 atlas.

Alaska from 'Atlas methodique', 1755

In 1733, Bering went back to the east. He spent almost ten years mapping Siberia and its coasts. Bering and another commander even sailed as far as Alaska. Bering suffered from scurvy on the return voyage and was forced to stop his ship on an island. He died there of scurvy and his ship was wrecked by storms. The picture below shows the island where Bering died. It is from a 1755 Atlas.

Bering Island from 'Atlas methodique', 1755

Bering’s discoveries added a lot to Russian geographic knowledge. They also led to the location of new mineral and animal resources for Russia. The picture below shows people hunting seals for their fur. Furs were one of the goods the Russians gathered in the Arctic region. These sealers are from a 1611 book all about Amsterdam and its trade.

Sealers from a 1611 book about Amsterdam and its trade