In 1724 - 25 the Russian Tsar Peter I appointed him as leader of what would become known as the Kamchatka expeditions, or the Great Norhtern Expeditions. The objective of this expedition was to determine if there was a land bridge between North America and Siberia, and to map the coast of each.
His first explorations began at the Kamchatka Peninsula where they built his ship Gabriel. On July 14th, 1728, Vitus Bering sailed round the East Cape, and through what is now known as the Bering Strait, so named after him, ( Now you know who he is !), Here he discovered St. Lawrence Island, and the Diomede Islands. To avoid having to spend a winter in an unknown, hostile environment, he turned around and went back to Kamchatka. Back in St. Petersburg he was criticized, and his expedition deemed a failure for being inconclusive. Surprisingly, he was allowed to lead a second expedition, which leads me to believe that this critcism, which may have stemmed from jealousy, was not shared by Peter I, who actually rewarded him for his discoveries.
The second expedition consisted of two sailing vessels. Berings ship, The St. Peter, and Alexei Chirikov's , St. Paul. In 1741 the two ships left Kamchatka together but became seperated at sea. Bering landed on the southern coast of Alaska, at Kayak Island. On board Bering had a medical officer named George Steller, who found and noted a number of new plants and animals, several of which bear his name. As they sailed along the shoreline they mapped the coasts for future reference. Meanwhile Alexei Chirikov, in The St. Paul, discovered and mapped the coast of Northwest America.
When the weather turned against him, Bering decided to return to Kamchatka. Along the way he discovered then Aleutian Islands. At this point in time one of his sailors died, and the island he was buried on now bears his name, Shumagin Island. Vitus Bering himself took ill with what was said to be scurvy, and was soon unable to command. On December 19, 1741, he died, and was buried on an uninhabited island which now bears his name. His ship was later shipwrecked, but from the wood the crew was able to make a smaller vessel, and sail back to Kamchatka the following year. 46 of the 77 men survived their ordeal in this harsh environment.
This great Danish captain of Russian vessels will forever be known, not so much for his daring exploratory expeditions, but for the strait, and sea, that were named after him. This is of course a shame because the man should be remembered for his heroic participation in two wars for Russia, and his contributions to our knowledge of the geography of the coasts of both Russia and America. I am proud to add this great Danish captain and explorer, Vitus Bering to our Scandinavian / Germanic Cultural Heritage. All Hail ! Vitus Bering !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !