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Vitus Bering (1681–1741), a Danish navigator, was the first European to cross the Bering Strait. In 1728 he sailed through the narrow water passage, which is 55 miles (88 kilometers) wide and connects the Arctic Ocean with the Bering Sea. Bering had been commissioned by Russian czar (king or emperor) Peter I (also called Peter the Great; 1672–1725) to explore the extreme northeast region of Siberia. When he sailed from the Arctic Ocean through the strait he came upon a vast body of water that was in fact an extension of the Pacific Ocean. (Both the strait and the newly discovered ocean were later named in his honor.) At the time, Bering did not realize that he had found a connecting waterway between the continents of Asia and North America.
Further Information: Hunt, William R. Arctic Passage. New York: Scribner, 1975; "Vitus Jonassen Bering 1681–1741." [Online] Available http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/bering/pages/vbering.html, October 22, 2000; "Vitus Jonassen Bering." MSN Encarta. [Online] Available http://encarta.msn.com/findConcise.asp?ti=03CDA000, September 29, 2000.
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