The following portion is a draft from Manifest Destiny:
In June of 1741, two Russian ships named the St Paul and the St Peter, were out at sea when they were separated. One of the ships, the St. Paul, sighted land and sent a longboat full of men to explore it. While they waited for their return, the crew found an abundance of sea otter in the area who's fur they could trade at a profit, they also learned that what they had landed on was an island. The aweigh team never returned, so they sent another longboat full of men to find the first group. When the second boat also failed to return, the ship left and continued sailing east. By October, they would turn back west and return to Russia.
While the St. Paul was waiting for their men to return from the island, the St. Peter, separated but still sailing east, also spotted land. The fact that there were mountains on this land gave the Captain, Dane Vitus Bering, hope that they had found a continent. They turned back west with the intent of returning to Russia and telling their people about what they had found. By November however, the crew had become shipwrecked on an island and Bering died of Scurvy the next month. The island that the surrounding sea would bear his name from then on.
The surviving crew wintered on the island, collecting sea otter fur, and once things warmed up again, the survivors built a 40 foot boat out of planks taken from the corpse of the St. Paul. Reaching Kamchatka by August of 1742, the Russians were impressed with the quality of the otter skins they returned with and decided to make a settlement on the land which they called "Russian America".
The settlements and expeditions would grow, but when it came to actually catching otter, they pulled a page from the Spanish and tasked the local population with the labor. Once again, disease took large swaths of the native population, once again the natives revolted, once again they were subdued into near extinction. In Time, the Russians would migrate down the coast until 1812, when they established Fort Ross. By the 1760s however, they were still up in Russian America, later called "Alaska".