In September 1740, the expedition sailed to the Kamchatka Peninsula with Bering and his two expeditionary vessels sailing around the peninsula’s south tip and up to Avacha Bay on the Pacific coast. Steller went ashore on the east coast of Kamchatka to spend the winter in Bolsherechye, where he helped to organize a local school and began exploring Kamchatka. When Bering summoned him to join the voyage in search of America and the strait between the two continents, serving in the role of scientist and physician. Steller crossed the peninsula by dog sled.
After Bering’s St. Peter was separated from its sister ship the St. Paul in a storm, Bering continued to sail east, expecting to find land soon. Steller, reading sea currents and flotsam and wildlife, insisted they should sail northeast. After considerable time lost they turned northeast and made landfall in Alaska at Kayak Island on Monday 20 July 1741. Bering wanted to stay only long enough to take on fresh water. Steller argued Captain Bering into giving him more time for land exploration and was granted 10 hours. During this time, as the first non-native to have set foot upon Alaskan soil, Steller became the first European naturalist to describe a number of North American plants and animals, including a jay later named Steller’s Jay.
Of the 6 species of birds and mammals that Steller discovered during the voyage, two are extinct (the Steller’s sea cow and the Spectacled Cormorant), and three are endangered or in severe decline (Steller’s sea lion, Steller’s Eider and Steller’s Sea Eagle). The sea cow, in particular, a massive northern relative of the manatee, lasted barely 25 years after Steller discovered and named it, a limited population that quickly became victim of over-hunting by the Russian crews that followed in Bering’s wake.
(via Georg Wilhelm Steller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)