The Bering Strait is the waterway between the northeastern end of the continent of Asia, that part of Russia known as
SIBERIA, and the northwestern end of the continent of North America, present-day Alaska. It is located at a latitude of 65 degrees and 30 minutes north and a longitude of 169 degrees west. The strait connects the Bering Sea, a northern
arm of the Pacific Ocean, with the Arctic Ocean. The narrowest part of the strait—51 miles wide—is between Cape Dezhnev in Russia and Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska. The Diomede Islands lie between the capes. Part of the strait is
normally frozen over from October to June. The Bering Strait forms the western outlet of the NORTHWEST PASSAGE and the eastern outlet of the NORTHEAST PASSAGE, water routes sought by European nations for centuries. There were reports of such a strait—the western outlet of the fabled Strait of Anian—in the mid-16th century, with representations of it on early maps. The earliest recorded sighting of the strait was by a party of Cossacks under SEMYON IVANOVICH DEZHNEV in 1648; they are thought to have passed through it as well. VITUS JONASSEN BERING, a Danish explorer in service to Russia, first charted the strait in 1728; the strait was subsequently named for him. It was further explored by Englishmen It is theorized that at times during Earth’s last ice age in the millennia before 8000 B.C., when more of Earth’s water was frozen in glaciers and now-submerged land was exposed, there was a LAND BRIDGE where the Bering Strait is today. Archaeological evidence indicates that Paleo-Indians, tracking big game, migrated to the Americas across the Bering Strait land bridge and are ancestral to the Native American population.