Origin of the Name

A portrait of Vitus Bering
Vitus Bering
The name Beringia originates from the name of Captain-Commander Vitus Jonassen Bering, a Danish-born navigator in service to the Russian Navy in the 18th Century.

From 1725-1730 and 1733-1741 Bering headed the First and the Second Kamchatka Expeditions. During these expeditions, the vessels commanded by Bering and Aleksey Chirikov, Bering's deputy, captain, and navigator, explored the waters of the North Pacific between Asia and North America.

In the summer of 1728, Bering sailed north from the Kamchatka Peninsula aboard the ship Gabriel. The expedition rounded the East Cape (also known as Cape Dezhnev) and sailed through the strait that now bears his name and lies between the Chukotka and Seward Peninsulas.

In June 1741, two packet ships, Sv. Pyotr (St. Peter) and Sv. Pavel (St. Paul), departed Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on the Second Kamchatka Expedition. During this expedition Bering's vessel Sv. Pyotr reached the shores of Alaska where they spotted Mount Saint Elias and landed at Kayak Island. Returning to Kamchatka, Bering's ship wrecked and the crew was forced to over-winter on a small uninhabited island off the end of the Aleutian chain where Bering died at the age of 60 in the winter of 1741. This island, one of the two Commander Islands, was later named after Bering. Besides the Bering Strait and Bering Island, the Bering Sea and Bering Glacier now bear the explorer's name.

Eric Hulten, Swedish botanist, explorer, and theoretician, was the first person to suggest calling the refugium he thought existed around the Bering Strait during the last Ice Age, Beringia.

Last updated: August 8, 2017