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George Washington De Long
Lt. Cmdr. George W. De Long, in 1879,
just before leaving for the Arctic.
Born (1844-08-22)August 22, 1844
Died October 31, 1881(1881-10-31) (aged 37)
Place of birth New York City, New York
Place of death Siberia, Russia
Buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1865–1881
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Commands held USS Jeannette

George Washington De Long[1] (August 22, 1844 – October 31, 1881) was a United States Navy officer and explorer.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Born in New York City, he was educated at the United States Naval Academy, and graduated in 1865.[2] In 1879, backed by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald newspaper, and under the auspices of the US Navy, Lieutenant Commander De Long sailed from San Francisco, California on the ship USS Jeannette with a plan to find a quick way to the North Pole via the Bering Strait.[3]

As well as collecting scientific data and animal specimens, De Long discovered and claimed three islands (De Long Islands) for the United States in the summer of 1881.[3]

The ship became trapped in the ice pack in the Chukchi Sea northeast of Wrangel Island in September 1879. It drifted in the ice pack in a northwesterly direction until it was crushed in the shifting ice and sank on June 12, 1881 in the East Siberian Sea. De Long and his crew then traversed the ice pack to try to reach Siberia pulling three small boats. After reaching open water on September 11 they became separated and one boat, commanded by Executive Officer Charles W. Chipp, was lost; no trace of it was ever found. De Long's own boat reached land, but only two men sent ahead for aid survived. The third boat, under the command of Chief Engineer George W. Melville, reached the Lena delta and was rescued.[3]

The grave of George Washington De Long

De Long died of starvation near Matvay Hut, Yakutia, Siberia. Melville returned a few months later and found the bodies of De Long and his boat crew. Overall, the doomed voyage took the lives of twenty expedition members, as well as additional men lost during the search operations.[3]

De Long and five of his men are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx section of New York City.[3]

Namesakes[edit | edit source]

Three US Navy ships have been named USS DeLong[4] in his honor, as were the De Long Mountains in northwest Alaska.

In 1890, the officers and men of the United States Navy dedicated a granite-and-marble monument to the memory of Lieut. George Washington De Long and the crew of the USS Jeannette. Lieut. George Partridge Colvocoresses designed the monument — a cross with carved icicles hanging from it that sits atop a cairn. The 24-foot (7.3 m)-high structure is in the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery overlooking the Severn River.

Publications[edit | edit source]

  • George W. De Long, The voyage of the Jeannette : the ship and ice journals of George W. De Long, lieutenant-commander U.S.N. and commander of the Polar expedition of 1879-1881, edited by his widow, Mrs. Emma J. (Wotton) De Long (1883)
  • John Muir, The cruise of the Corwin : journal of the Arctic expedition of 1881 in search of De Long and the Jeanette (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1917)
  • Emma Wotton De Long, Explorer's Wife, introduction by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1938)
  • Leonard F. Guttridge, Icebound: The Jeannette Expedition's Quest for the North Pole (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986) ISBN 0-87021-330-X.
  • Michael Robinson, The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (Chicago, 2006)
  • John Wilson Danenhower, The Narrative of the Jeannette (Boston, 1882)
  • Melville, In the Lena Delta (Boston, 1885)
  • Edward Ellsberg, Hell on Ice: the Saga of the Jeannette (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1938)
  • Hampton Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette (New York, Doubleday, 2014)

External links[edit | edit source]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. DeLong is a possible alternate spelling of the name; however, the alternate was not used by his biographers (including his widow Emma, Guttridge, Melville, Robinson, Ellsberg, Muir..., as well as Britannica and multiple other written sources including the Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Navy, 1880-1884) nor by Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
  2. During the Civil War, the Naval Academy was relocated from Annapolis to Newport.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Sides, Hampton (2014). In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette. Doubleday. 
  4. This alternative spelling as DeLong rather than De Long is contradicted by the US Navy Department's "Ship's Data U.S. Naval Vessels" listings in the 1916, 1921, and 1945 editions, respectively.

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