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Bering's Voyages: 1728-1741

The Danish explorer Vitus Bering is an officer in the Russian navy when he is appointed by Peter the Great, in 1724, to lead an expedition to discover whether Siberia is joined to the continent of America.

Bering builds a ship at the mouth of the Kamchatka river, in eastern Siberia, and sails north in July 1728 through what is now the Bering Sea. He makes his way up through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Circle, seeing and naming the Diomede Islands in the middle of the channel. On this occasion he fails to sight the coast of Alaska.

On a second voyage, in 1741, Bering reaches Alaska and explores part of its southern coast. On the way back to the Kamchatka peninsula his ship is wrecked on one of the Komandorski islands. Bering dies that winter, but survivors of his expedition get back to Russia with furs purchased in Alaska.

The lure of fur brings merchants eastwards and begins Russia's link with Alaska - formalized at the end of the century in the Russian-American Company.

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