When westerners began to visit the Bering Strait, they were touching the jugular of a thriving trade in furs between America and Asia.
Furs from central and northern Alaska, and from as far east as Canada's Mackenzie River drainage, made their way west, from one set of hands to another, through a network of Native fur traders. The furs were funneled through the Bering Strait, made their way across Chukotka and Siberia, to Russian and Cossack traders, southeast down the Lena River, across and around Lake Baikal, and into China. On the backhaul blue beads, tobacco, knives, axe heads, and iron ware, made their way east.
King Island was just south of the Strait, and King Islanders were active middlemen in this trade.
John Bockstoce, the historian of the northern whaling industry, has a new book out on the 19th Century northern fur trade: Furs and Frontiers in the Far North. In Furs and Frontiers he describes a visit by Russian explorer/traders to King Island in 1822.
The Russian-American Company probed north into the Bering Sea and the Bering Strait from its bases on Alaska's Pacific coast, looking for ways to intercept the trade and its profits. In 1822Vasily Stepanovich Khramchenko was sent north in the brig Golovnin to survey Norton Sound and the Bering Strait.