Jeannette Arctic Expedition, 1879-1881
Overview and Selected Images

From 1879-1881 thirty-three Navy officers, enlisted men and civilians, led by Lieutenant Commander George Washington DeLong, participated in an epic Arctic adventure that defines the limits of human will and endurance in an overwhelmingly distant and hostile environment. The undertaking began optimistically on 8 July 1879, when the Navy operated, but privately owned, steamer Jeannette left San Francisco, California, for an attempt to reach the North Pole through what was then believed to be open water beyond the Arctic icepack. The ship entered the ice to the east of Wrangell Island on 6 September and, as expected, was held fast within a few days.

Jeannette remained in the ice as it drifted erratically to the northwest during the rest of 1879, all of 1880 and the first half of 1881. During this time, her crew occupied themselves maintaining their ship, making scientific observations, hunting seals and polar bears and, in May 1881, landing on Henrietta Island, some 600 miles from Wrangell. With DeLong's leadership and careful planning, plus the inspired care of Passed Assistant Surgeon James M. Ambler, their health generally remained good, and the ship, though leaking somewhat, was still sound. In June 1881 the ice parted and hopes were entertained that they might reach open sea, but on the 12th the flows closed in with such force that Jeannette's hull was crushed. Her crew removed three boats, supplies and some equipment and, after a few days' rest, began a long and very difficult trek, dragging the boats over the rugged ice so they would have means to proceed when open water was reached.

Their goal was the Lena River Delta, nearly 700 miles away on the north Siberian coast. In late July, after a journey prolonged by ice movement, they landed on Bennett Island, still far from the mainland. Resuming the slog, Jeannette's men headed southwards through the New Siberian Islands, reaching Kotelnoi and Simonoski Islands in early September, after which the way was clear to sail to the Lena Delta. On 12 September 1881, however, the three boats separated in a storm. One, commanded by Lieutenant Charles W. Chipp and occupied by seven other men, was not seen again. The other two, commanded by DeLong with thirteen others and Chief Engineer George W. Melville with ten others, landed far apart on the delta.

Melville's party soon encountered local inhabitants and were saved. DeLong and his thirteen men waded ashore through the nearly frozen water and began to trudge south over the desolate terrain. After one man died of the effects of frostbite and the others were weakened by exposure and hunger, Seamen Nindemann and Noros were sent ahead to find help. Before that materialized, the remaining eleven succumbed, with DeLong and two others surviving perhaps a few days beyond 30 October 1881, when he made his final journal entry. The bodies of ten were discovered in March 1882, as Melville conducted an exhausting search for the other members of the expedition, and were transported back to the United States in early 1884.

This page features selected views related to the Jeannette Expedition, and provides links to all images we have on the subject.

Comprehensive list of pictorial holdings on the Jeannette Arctic exploration expedition of 1879-1881

For extensive textual information on this subject, "A Lengthy Deployment: The Jeannette Expedition ...".

Click the photograph for a larger image.

Photo #: NH 52001

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


"Entering the Ice"
Engraving by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume I, page 117, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884. It depicts USS Jeannette entering the Arctic Ice, near Herald Island (about 72N, 175W), on 6 September 1879.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 153KB; 740 x 555

 
Photo #: NH 92120

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Expedition members "Returning from a Bear Hunt", while USS Jeannette was icebound north of Siberia, 1880.
Woodcut engraved by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume I, page 363, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 131KB; 740 x 485

 
Photo #: NH 52000

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


"The Sinking of the Jeannette"
Engraving by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 575, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884. It depicts USS Jeannette after she was crushed by ice flows north of Siberia on 12 June 1881. She sank in the morning of 13 June in position 77 14'57" N, 154 58'45"E.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 148KB; 740 x 460

 
Photo #: NH 92140

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Chart depicting the course followed by the USS Jeannette's crew from 12 June 1881, when they abandoned the ship in the ice north of Siberia, to 19 September 1881.
Copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 744, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 338KB; 955 x 1225

 
Photo #: NH 52002

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


"Dragging the Boats over the Ice"
Engraving by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 629, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884. It depicts the crew of USS Jeannette hauling the ship's boats over the very rough Arctic ice north of Siberia in June-August 1881. Jeannette had been crushed in the ice and sunk on 12-13 June.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 175KB; 740 x 525

 
Photo #: NH 92136

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Woodcut engraved by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, depicting the USS Jeannette party "Landing on Bennett Island", north of Siberia, on 29 July 1881, after a difficult pull over water and broken ice.
Copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 677, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 172KB; 740 x 545

 
Photo #: NH 92141

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Woodcut engraved by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, depicting USS Jeannette's boats separating in a gale northeast of the Lena River Delta, Siberia, on 12 September 1881. The boat commanded by Lieutenant Commander George DeLong (depicted in the foreground) landed at the northern end of the Delta. That commanded by Chief Engineer George W. Melville (background, right) landed on the Delta's eastern side. The boat commanded by Lieutenant Charles W. Chipp (background, left) was not heard of again.
Copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 751, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 152KB; 740 x 565

 
Photo #: NH 92142

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Woodcut engraved by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, depicting Lieutenant Commander George DeLong and his party wading ashore from USS Jeannette's first cutter, on the north end of the Lena River Delta, Siberia, 17 September 1881.
Copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 759, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 163KB; 740 x 485

 
Photo #: NH 92143

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Woodcut engraved by George T. Andrew after a design by M.J. Burns, depicting Seamen William F.C. Nindemann and Louis P. Noros trudging through the snowy Siberian wastes in search of help for Lieutenant Commander George DeLong's party, October 1881.
Copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 793, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 101KB; 415 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 92144

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Facsimile of the next-to-last page of Lieutenant Commander George DeLong's journal, covering 21-24 October 1881, as his party was dying of starvation at the head of the Lena River Delta, Siberia. Numbered days reflect the time since USS Jeannette was abandoned in the ice north of Siberia.
Copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 798, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 80KB; 500 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 92153

"Finding the Bodies of Captain De Long and his Companions."


Chief Engineer George Melville discovers the bodies of Lieutenant Commander George DeLong, Passed Assistant Surgeon James M. Ambler and Seaman Ah Sam, in the Lena River Delta, Siberia, on 23 March 1882. The three men had died in October or early November 1881.
Woodcut engraved by George T. Andrew after a design by Captain Gronbeck, copied from "The Voyage of the Jeannette ...", Volume II, page 857, edited by Emma DeLong, published in 1884.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 126KB; 740 x 480

 
Photo #: NH 52006

Jeannette Arctic exploring expedition, 1879-1881


Engraving of the expedition's survivors, based on a photograph taken at Yakutsk, Siberia, in 1882. Those present are
(left to right, in front): Lauderback, Bartlett, William Coles, Seaman William F.C. Nindemann, and Mansen.
(left to right, in middle): Chief Engineer George W. Melville and Lieutenant John W. Danenhower.
(left to right, in back): Raymond Lee Newcomb (naturalist), Seaman Louis P. Noros, Henry Wilson, Tong Sing (cook), Anequin and H.W. Leach.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 173KB; 740 x 540

 


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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