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VITUS BERING

In 1728 Bering began to explore the Bering Strait in the cold northern seas between Siberia (Russia) and Alaska (North America). He made two journeys, from 1725-29 and 1734-41, funded by the Tsar of Russia, to find out whether Russia and America were joined. He crossed Asia by land to get there, and by his efforts established that Asia and North America were two separate continents.

In 16,000 BC the Bering Strait was occupied by a land bridge between Asia and North America, across which the ancestors of the Native Americans migrated. Crossings may have begun as early as 35,000 BC but estimates vary to as late as 13,000 BC. At various times throughout early history, vast ice caps and huge glaciers covered much of northern Europe, Asia, and North America. These cold periods, known as Ice Ages, occurred roughly every 100,000 years and were followed by warmer periods of about 20,000 years each. The last Ice Age began in about 110,000 BC and was mostly over by c.13,000 BC. Because so much water was frozen, sea levels fell by about 90 m. As a result, continents that were previously separated by the oceans were linked, and there was a bridge of land across the Bering Strait between northeast Russia and Alaska. Hunter-gatherers who had settled in Asia began to travel, crossing into what is now Alaska and the Yukon in North America. After c.12,000 BC, the Bering Strait flooded over again, cutting off the Asians from their homeland. So they continued to spread southwards through North America and then into South America, reaching as far south as Patagonia in Argentina and Chile by about 9000 BC.



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