Bering, Vitus Jonassen

Bering, Vitus Jonassen

Bering, Vitus Jonassen (vēˈto͝os yōˈnäsən bārˈĭng), 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bering, Vitus Jonassen


(in documents, frequently Ivan Ivanovich Bering). Born in 1681; died Dec. 8, 1741. Navigator, officer of the Russian fleet, and captain-commander. Danish by birth. Invited into Russian service in 1703.

Bering sailed in the Baltic and Azov fleets until 1724. In 1725 he was appointed chief of the first Kamchatka expedition (1725–30), the official purpose of which was to resolve the question of the presence of an isthmus or strait between Asia and America. Bering’s aide, A. I. Chirikov, played an important role in the organization and work of the expedition. The expedition sailed around the eastern coast of Kamchatka and the southern and eastern shores of Chukotka; it passed unwittingly through the strait which was later named after Bering to 67°18’, where it lost sight of land. It then returned, without having resolved the question of a strait.

In 1733, Bering was appointed chief of the second Kamchatka expedition. He was to cross Siberia and to set out from Kamchatka to explore the shores of North America. On July 17, 1741, Bering reached the shores of North America on the vessel St. Peter. He discovered several of the Aleutian Islands. Bering died on the way back during the party’s winter stay on the island that bears his name. The sea in the north Pacific Ocean is also named after Bering.


Berg, L. S.Otkrytie Kamchatki i ekspeditsii Beringa, 1725–1742, 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Belov, M. I. Arkticheskoe moreplavanie s drevneishikh vremen do serediny 19 v. Moscow, 1956.
Grekov, V. I. Ocherki iz istorii russkikh geograficheskikh issledovanii ν 1725–1765 gg. Moscow, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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