Vitus Jonassen Bering was born in Hørsens, Denmark, in August of 1681. His father, Jonas Svendsen, worked with the government of the town, which sits on a seaport on eastern Jutland, the Danish peninsula. Bering’s mother, Anna Bering, was part of a well-known and accomplished family, although neither parent came from a naval background. Bering entered service for the Dutch East India Company as a teenager, and in 1703 sailed to the East Indies, returning to Amsterdam. In 1704, he was invited to serve as a lieutenant in the navy of Peter the Great of Russia, a common placement for Danish officers. Between 1715 and 1720, he rose from a fourth to a second ranking captain, but was not promoted following the war between Russia and Sweden, which ended in 1721. He gave the Russian navy an ultimatum in 1724: if he did not reach the rank of first captain, he would resign his commission. He left for his estate in Vyborg, Finland. Czar Peter contacted Bering, now 43 years of age, in August of that year, requesting that he lead the First Kamchatka Expedition of exploration. When he returned, he was sent out to the Pacific a second time. He died on expedition in 1741, at the age of 62.
Alexei Ilyich Chirikov was born in 1703 in Russia. He attended the Russian Naval Academy and graduated in 1721. He then served as an instructor of cadets at the academy. Just four years later, in 1725, he was appointed as lieutenant for an expedition under Captain Bering. Chirikov sailed on both the First and Second Kamchatka Expeditions in 1725 and 1733, with Bering on the Sv. Gavrill on the First and as commander of the Sv. Pavel on the Second. Chirikov earned a reputation for courage and common sense during the expeditions, and launched a mission in 1742 to find the Sv. Petr when Bering went missing. He survived the expedition and returned to Russia to receive his promotion to kapitan-komandor and to be presented to the Empress Catherine. He contributed to the preparation of expedition charts before his death from tuberculosis in Moscow in November of 1748.