(born 1681, Horsens, Den.—died Dec. 19, 1741, Bering Island, near the Kamchatka Peninsula) Danish-born Russian navigator. He joined the fleet of the Russian tsar Peter I and in 1724 was appointed leader of an expedition to determine whether Asia and North America were connected by land. In 1728 he set sail from the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia and passed through what would later be named the Bering Strait. His plan for a second expedition was expanded into Russia's Great Northern Expedition (1733–43), which mapped much of the Arctic coast of Siberia. After exploring the Alaskan coast, he fell ill from scurvy and died after his ship was wrecked. His exploration paved the way for a Russian foothold in North America.
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