George Washington De Long

Birth: 1844


George Washington De Long (1844-1881) was an American explorer, born in New York city on the 22nd of August 1844. He graduated at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1865, and spent the next fourteen years in naval service in various parts of the world, attaining the rank of lieutenant in 1869, and lieutenant-commander in 1879. In 1873 he took part in the voyage of the "Juniata," sent to search for and relieve the American Arctic expedition under Hall in the "Polaris," commanding a steam launch which was sent out from Upernivik, Greenland, to make a thorough search of Melville Bay.

On his return to New York the same year he proposed to James Gordon Bennett, of The New York Herald, that the latter should fit out a Polar expedition. It was not until 1879 that the final arrangements were made, the "Pandora," a yacht which had already made two Arctic voyages under Sir Allen Young, being purchased and rechristened the "Jeannette" for this voyage. The story of this expedition (see Polar Regions) is chiefly remarkable on account of the long and helpless drifting of the "Jeannette" with the polar ice-pack in which she was caught (September 5, 1879) and by which she was finally crushed and sunk on the 13th of June 1881.

The members of the expedition set out in three boats, one of which was lost in a gale, while another boat-load under De Long died from starvation after reaching the mouth of the Lena river. He was the last survivor of his party. His journal, in which he made regular entries up to the day on which he died (October 30, 1881) was edited by his wife and published in 1883 under the title Voyage of the "Jeannette"; and an account of the search which was made for him and his comrades by his heroic companion George W. Melville, who was chief engineer of the expedition and commanded the third of the retreating parties, was published a year later under the title of In the Lena Delta.

The fate of the "Jeannette" was still more remarkable in its sequel. Three years after she had sunk several articles belonging to her crew were found on an ice-floe near Julianshaab on the south-west coast of Greenland; thus adding fresh evidence to the theory of a continuous ocean current passing across the unknown Polar regions, which was to be finally demonstrated by Nansen's voyage in the "Fram." By direction of the United States government, the remains of De Long and his companions were brought home and interred with honor in his native city.


1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 7. pg 970

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