De Long George Washington 
(22.08.1844 – appr. 30.10.1881)

American polar explorer. 
Born in New York in the family of French immigrants. De-Long received his initial education at the Brooklyn School, which in 1857 nominated him for admission to the maritime school. But his parents considered the profession of a seaman too dangerous and did not give their consent. After graduating from school, he worked in the office of the law firm. 
The love of the sea, travel overcame the resistance of parents, and in 1861, De-Long achieved their consent to enter the Maritime Academy, from which he graduated with honors in 1865. De-Long was assigned to a warship and for three years sailed along the western shores of Europe, America and the Mediterranean. 
In 1873, he participated in an expedition to search for the Polaris vessel in the Baffin Sea, where he proved himself a brave and skillful sailor.As often happens, the first acquaintance with the Arctic has become a passion for life. De-Long "fell ill" with the Arctic and, on his return to New York, announced to the Maritime Department his desire to go there again. From this moment on, the idea of organizing an expedition to the North Pole is ripening in it. On the advice of G. Grinnell,  well-known polar patron of the arts De Long contacts the publisher of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett, who has long been considering such a plan for such an expedition. He was a supporter of the hypothesis of the French hydrograph G. Lambert and the German geographer A. Peterman about the ice barrier and the ice-free sea near the North Pole. Bennett immediately appreciated De-Long's professional and human qualities, but he managed to get to the front of the expedition only at the end of 1876. Another year was spent searching for a suitable vessel. It turned out to be the English yacht "Pandora", made of oak and having ice skins. Its owner, an outstanding English polar explorer Allen Jung, sold the yacht with great reluctance. She was renamed “Jeannette” in honor of Sister Bennett. 
The entire preparation of the expedition, including the “Jeannette” stage from Europe to America, was completed by the summer of 1879. The De Long Maritime Department was approved by its head, the selection of participants was carried out under its strict control. Here are his demands: “Singles, perfectly healthy, possessing physical strength, able to read and write in English, not drinking, cheerful, first-class sailors, if you can musicians, preferably Norwegians, Danes and Swedes; Avoid the British, Scots, Irish. Refuse completely from the French, Italians and Spaniards".  
The purpose of the expedition was determined to achieve the North Pole, as well as the search for the expedition N.A. Nordenskiöld. Unlike Bennett, who sponsored the expedition, De-Long counted not on the open sea, but on the Pacific current directed north. He hoped with his help to reach high latitudes and further move on dog sleds. 
On June 8, 1879, “Jeannette” left San Francisco; on August 28, the Bering Strait passed. In the area of Kolyuchinskaya Bay, having landed, the sailors learned from the locals that the vessel Nordensheld had been freed from ice in July and had gone to the Bering Strait. Now it was possible to start the execution of the main mission of the expedition, and De-Long headed north. 
On September 2, being 100 miles from the southeastern cape, Fr. Wrangel, met a solid pack ice and went to the northeast. De-Long was hoping to reach Herald Island and get up there for the winter, but on September 5, “Jeannette” was covered with ice 20 miles northeast of the island. For her, free swimming ended forever. From the first days the ship began to be compressed and received a noticeable heel. Attempts to break through to the island of Herald did not bring success, drift began, which lasted for two years. The drift line had a general northwest direction, but in the first year it was complicated by numerous loops, thanks to which the advance to high latitudes was insignificant. For a long time, the Herald and Wrangel Islands remained in mind of the vessel. The ice floe into which Jeannette was frozen was not strong enough. The constant threat of death of the vessel forced the sailors to be on the alert. The equipment necessary for moving across the ice to the continent was selected for this case. Depending on the situation, it was necessary to unload it on the ice, then return it to the ship again. In January 1880, after a severe compression, the vessel received a strong leak, the fight against which became one of the crew’s main occupations during the entire subsequent drift. She took a lot of physical strength in the manual pumping, and then coal after adjusting the steam pump. In general, maintaining the physical condition of the crew and saving coal were De Long's main concerns. 
In general, the first wintering was postponed by people quite well. Properly adjusted life, the presence of meat of seals, walruses and bears, harvested by the autumn hunt, allowed to maintain the good health of the crew. At the same time, De Long’s records were constantly slipping in disappointment regarding the results achieved by the expedition, “that in the first season we did not reach high latitude, that we did not discover anything and did not achieve anything scientifically valuable”. 
During the whole of 1880, the ice floe with “Jeannette” wrote out intricate loops, moving very little to the north-west. This circumstance, the inability to actively intervene in the situation, caused the growing despondency of the crew and the commander, who more and more often splashed onto the pages of De Long's diary: “... we are absolutely aimlessly spending both coal and food. Why do we need health and energy, which can not be applied to anything? Arctic expeditions are judged by the results, and not by the diligence and intent of their participants”.  However, with the onset of 1881, to the general joy, the drift speed increased significantly, giving hope for getting the first results. On May 17, travelers were rewarded for their 14-month wait: an unknown island appeared on the horizon, which was named after the expedition ship. It was not possible to land on it, but another week later another island was discovered, named for Bennett’s mother, Henrietta. 
The luge squad commanded by mechanical engineer D.W. Melville, overcoming heavy hummocks, reached the island, examined it and hoisted the US flag on it.


Henrietta Island

(view from space)


Unfortunately, after this luck finally turned away from the expedition. On June 11, the ices dispersed for a short time, and then the strongest compression began.Anticipating the irreparable, De-Long ordered to start unloading on the ice all that is necessary for the luge movement. The agony of the ship lasted four hours, during which unloading operations did not stop for a minute. Crushed by ices of "Jeannette", sank at the point with coordinates 77º 15' N and 154º 59'E. Once on the ice, the members of the expedition began to prepare for the sledding transition. By order of De Long, those personal belongings that each person could take with him were clearly and strictly defined. In addition, five sledges with general expedition equipment and food were prepared, as well as two boats, a whale whaleboat and a skiff in case of movement on water. By another order the technology of movement was described in detail and the direction of movement was given - to the Novosibirsk islands and further to the coast of Siberia.


The death of "Jeannette"


On June 18, the mariners set off on a journey that was the last for most of them. Moving forward on heavy, humorous ice covered with deep, intensely thawed snow required extreme physical effort. Frequent cracks and splittings, which had to be overcome through the hastily constructed ice bridges, hampered the passage. The situation was aggravated by the fact that everything had to be done several times due to the huge amount of cargo that could not be dragged in one go. On average, the detachment was able to move no more than a mile per day, but this advance for each of the travelers resulted in 6–7 miles. After a week of exceptionally heavy traffic, De Long made a determination of the location of the squad and, to his horror, discovered that they were 28 miles north of the starting point. Ice drifted north faster than moving south. In order to quickly overcome the unfavorable current strip, we changed the course to the southwest. After half a month of the painful journey on July 11, the travelers saw an unknown land. It was an island they named after Bennett.


Flag setting on Bennett Island


Reach the island and land on its southern tip (cape Emma named wife of De-Long) managed only 29 numbers. Here the detachment stayed for eight days, devoting them not only to the much needed rest and repair of pretty battered equipment, but also to exploring the island. De Long and his companions made observations of the ebb and flow, collected numerous collections of geological samples, plants and birds. Outcrops of brown coal were discovered, which burned beautifully. One can only wonder at the dedication of these people. Exhausted by dragging the goods they already had, they, however, wanting to benefit science, replenished them with new ones.And ahead there was a very heavy kilometer transition into the unknown. Before sending, De-Long folded the Gurias in the area of Cape Emma, in which he left a note with a brief description of what was done and plans for subsequent actions. 
The further way to the Novosibirsk islands was more free from ice. This was the region of the Great Siberian Polynya, where 21 years later the group E.V. Toll died.Quite often, the detachment was able to advance in boats, one of which was headed by De-Long himself, the second by Lieutenant Chipp [ 1] and the third (whale whaleboat) by D.U. Melville. August 21 saw about. New Siberia, and on August 30, entered the Blagoveshchensk Strait, which separates this island from Faddeevsky Island. Overcoming the strait for the day, made a short stop on the southern bank of Faddeevsky, then moved west and on 6 September reached the southern tip of Kotel'niy Island. By this time, food stocks have decreased markedly. The daily rate of pemmican, which was the main component of nutrition, decreased from 400 to 100 g per person, the hunt was not very successful. Two winterings, and especially the last months after the death of the vessel, have already noticeably reduced the physical condition of people. However, the reserve of their mental strength was still great. De Long's diary entries about the discovery of “interesting” stones, fossil bones, and most of all the fact of keeping these detailed and daily entries in extreme conditions of movement on fragile vessels on the Arctic stormy sea in anticipation of the coming winter, are striking. 
[1] The mountain on Henrietta Island is named after Chipp.

On September 7, they moved away from the Boiler Room, and, breaking 65 miles of clear water and ice fields, on September 11 reached Semenovskiy Island, where they were able to get some rest and even kill a deer. De Long noted that the island appears to be eroding. It ceased to exist in 1952, in its place is now Semenovskaya Bank. 
After a two-day rest, the travelers set off on a further voyage, heading southwest toward the Lena Delta. After several hours of movement, the fresh east wind sharply intensified, and a strong storm began at sea, which played a fatal role in the fate of the expedition and divided its participants into the living and the dead. 
The ships lost sight of each other, and each of them waited for their own fate.


Storm divided the De Long team into the living and the dead


After four days of the deadly voyage, the De Long group saw a low, flat beach. Because of the shallow water to reach him on the boat was impossible. Having built a raft and unloaded the most necessary things on it, we forded, pushing the raft to the shore.

The landing of the De Long group on the swampy shore of the Lena Delta

In the end, about a mile had to drag cargo in icy water up to my knees. On September 18, exhausted travelers, wet and frozen, in the dark, set up camp on a wet swampy shore in a blizzard, lit a fire and, even without setting up duty officers, went to bed. In the records of De-Long, which he still kept daily, in spite of any deprivation, one can read: “The soil is so moist that overnight we were soaked. As a rule, wetting of sleeping bags and clothes ... We should not hide our position from ourselves. We must prepare for the campaign".  De Long’s disposal was a very inaccurate map of the Lena Delta, and he could not reliably tie down the landing site. Anyone who has been in the area knows that it’s not easy to decide on modern maps there among countless islands. As it turned out, the landing of the De Long group took place on the coast of the central part of the Lena Delta east of the Tumatskaya channel. Somewhat regained strength and dried, the travelers moved south, having a supply of food for a maximum of 3-4 days. Exhausted and frostbite people moved slowly. Frequent water obstacles that had to be overcome on raft-made rafts, to bypass or wait for the formation of the ice cover, were very delayed. The terrain was completely deserted, there were only abandoned huts of industrialists. The hunt was unsuccessful, and by the end of September it stopped completely, as the bulk of the deer migrated to the south. One of the sailors began gangrene of the toes of frostbite legs, on October 1 they had to be amputated, which, of course, did not save him in those conditions. Hollow out the grave of forces was not, and the unfortunate was buried in the river. On October 3, the only dog ​​they had was eaten. Next, people fed on glycerol with hot water, small doses of alcohol, decoction of shrub willow. Parts of clothes and shoes made of buckskin, belts, insoles were used for food. Desperate for the whole group to get to some housing, De-Long decides to send forward two of the most powerful people - the sailors Nindeman and Noros. This decision saved them, but nothing changed the fate of the remaining people. After 13 days of the nightmarish journey, Nindeman and Noros managed to reach the Yakut settlements, but the lack of knowledge of the language did not allow them to even plainly explain to the Yakuts what had happened and where they came from.

Nindeman and Noros on the road to salvation

They were taken to Bulun, where, to their amazement and great joy, they met Melville. The fate of his group was happy. Their whaleboat reached the shore in the area of ​​the Bykovskaya channel, and after three days they met local residents, among whom was the Russian exile Kuzma Yeremeyev. With it, the Americans quickly got to Bulun. The weakest participants were sent to Yakutsk, and Melville himself was already on November 10, using the information received from Nindeman and Noros, went on dogs in search of De-Long. Four days later, he reached the landing site of the De Long group and collected the belongings left there, among which were ship magazines. However, more could not be done that year. Already in March 1882, Melville organized a new search expedition, which found the site of De Long’s last site and his diary, which told about the heroic campaign of the Americans and their last days. De-Long drove him to the end, not missing a single day, only the recordings got shorter and shorter. After October 15, when two boots were eaten and the last portions of willow broth were drunk, the travelers stopped moving. Starving death began to pull them one by one. De Long continued to record, but they consisted only of indicating the number of days since the death of "Jeannette" and the names of comrades who died during the day. The last entry of October 30: “The one hundred and fortieth day. At night, Boyd and Hertz died. Collins dies. By this time, three people survived with De Long. 
The camp was found on the low bank of the wide channel.


Melville found the last camp of De Long and his comrades


De-Long was found first in 500 m from the place of a big campfire on the arm sticking out of the snow, and Dr. Ambler and the cook A-Sam were found next to him. Near De Long were a diary and a pencil. Apparently, he did not have enough strength to hide them in his pocket. The remaining nine people, whose death De-Long noted in his diary, were near the fire. Apparently, De-Long, realizing that in the spring the water would flood the camp site and take everything into the ocean, he tried with the remaining comrades who were still alive to move higher. Until the last moment, already dying, he continued to perform the functions of a superior. 
Since the entire low part of the Lena Delta, including the De Long lay, is flooded with a 3–4 meter layer of water, the burial site was chosen on the hills to the south. The bodies were placed in a box, transferred to a rock 100–120 m high, and a cairn and a cross were erected above the box. Since then, this rock is called the Roller Coaster.


De Long's temporary burial site and his comrades on a roller coaster


Having finished their sorrowful affairs, the search group went through the entire coast of the Lena Delta, entering the mouths of all the canals, questioning the Yakuts, in search of the group of Lieutenant Chipp, who was on the second boat. Information about her was completely absent. They are not there yet. It is now clear that she died in a storm, before reaching the shore. Thus ended this tragic expedition, which became a model of the highest human courage, fortitude and dedication. Of the 33 people left alive 13. In 1883, the remains of De Long and his comrades were transferred to the United States. They were buried in Woodlon Cemetery in New York .Through the efforts of the widow De Long Emma Watton De Long in 1928, a monument was erected by sculptor Leonard Kraské. 
According to the rules in force in the US Navy, everything that happened with the De Long expedition was the subject of a thorough trial. The court noted that “any vessel that was in the“ Jeannette ”position and subjected to the same compression should have died, regardless of the type of structure and strength. The ship was abandoned properly, and the transition on the ice made quite right .... establishing the behavior and merit of officers and teams does not give any reason to criticize any of the members of the expedition ... The behavior of all personnel represents a wonderful example of cheerfulness, companionship, mutual condescension, endurance and constancy”.  
Three years later, off the coast of southern Greenland, items belonging to the De Long expedition were found on a floating ice floe. This showed that the ice from the Novosibirsk islands drift through the Arctic basin to the Norwegian-Greenland basin, which prompted F. Nansen to the idea of reaching the pole on a vessel frozen in ice.


Jeannette Island

(photo by N. M. Stolbov)

The archipelago of the East Siberian Sea, part of the Novosibirsk Islands archipelago. 
Mountains in northwest Alaska. 
Mountain in the southwest of the Bennett Island of the De Long archipelago. Named in 1901 by E.V. Toll. 
Bay in the northwestern part of Jackson Island archipelago Franz Josef Land. Named in 1895 by F. Nansen. 
The Strait (De Long Fjord) between the northern coast of Greenland and the Lockwood Islands. Opened by the second Tulis expedition of K. Rasmussen.


Return to the main page