George Delong, 1879
In 1879 Lieutenant Commander G. W. De Long organized an
expedition to the north by way of Bering Sea. His vessel, the JEANETTE,
partly outfitted by James Gordon Bennett, sailed in the summer of
1879 from San Francisco, but by the first part of September she was frozen
fast in the ice fields. She remained imprisoned in the ice until June,
1881, when the ice finally released her momentarily only to crush and sink
her the next minute. So quickly had the catastrophe happened that barely
time was given to get the officers and men clear of the ship before she
sank. A small quantity of provisions was saved and three boats. The position
of the survivors was most perilous. They were on the ice north of Siberia
and the distance to the nearest settlement was over five hundred miles
away. A brave struggle against hopeless odds now began and not until three
months later did the little band reach the mouth of the Lena River. Here
a storm separated the three boats and one of the boats foundered with all
hands. De Long with thirteen men was overtaken by a blizzard and all perished.
The chief engineer, G. W. Melville, with part of his party alone managed
to find a settlement and assistance. They recovered the bodies of De Long
and his companions in March 1882, and brought them back to the United States.
Reynolds, J. Frank, The United States Navy From the
Revolution to Date. (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1918) 62.
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