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Biographies Unit Biographies

Vitus Bering 1681–1741
Explorer Known as the “Russian Columbus”

Vitus Bering was born in Denmark. When he was fourteen years old, he took a job working on a boat that sailed to India. He went on to a life of sailing and exploring.

In 1703, Bering joined the Russian navy. He later became a Russian citizen. In 1724, Bering led a Russian expedition to explore the eastern coast of Russia. During that trip he sailed through the narrow waters that separate Asia from North America. The waterway between the continents is named the Bering Strait after him.

Bering then led a second expedition to explore even further. His goal was to reach North America. In 1741, Bering's ship reached the coast of present–day Alaska. He explored the coast and the Aleutian Islands. Although Bering died before reaching home, his crew returned. They brought furs with them. The furs sparked great interest in Russia, leading to the Russian fur trade in North America.

Comprehension Check

What did Bering accomplish on his first expedition to North America?

Critical Thinking

Why do you think Bering is known as the “Russian Columbus”?