De Long, George Washington

De Long, George Washington

(də lông`), 1844–81, American arctic explorer, b. New York City, grad. Annapolis, 1865. In 1873 he was assigned to the Juniata, which was sent to the arctic to search for C. F. HallHall, Charles Francis,
1821–71, American arctic explorer, b. Rochester, N.H. He became interested in the many search expeditions for Sir John Franklin's party, and with Eskimo companions he explored (1860–62) the southeast corner of Baffin Island, finding traces of
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's expedition on the Polaris. In 1879, backed by the younger James Gordon BennettBennett, James Gordon,
1841–1918, American newspaper proprietor, b. New York City; son of James Gordon Bennett. Educated mostly in France, he took over (1867) from his father the management of the New York Herald.
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 and under the auspices of the U.S. navy, he sailed from San Francisco on the U.S.S. Jeannette with a plan to penetrate Bering Strait and attempt a dash to the North Pole. There was then a theory that a current from Japan would speed them north through an open polar sea. However, there was no open sea, and the vessel was caught in the ice pack and drifted nearly two years until it was crushed and sank. The men had abandoned ship with provisions, sledges, and boats and now set out southward for Siberia. After reaching open water and embarking in the boats, they were separated. One boat was lost. A second, with De Long in command landed, but only two men sent ahead for aid survived. The third boat, commanded by George W. Melville, reached the Lena delta and was rescued. The next year Melville returned and found the bodies of De Long and his companions, who had perished from cold and hunger.

The expedition proved definitely that Wrangel IslandWrangel Island
or Wrangell Island
, Rus. Ostrov Vrangelya, island, 1,740 sq mi (4,507 sq km), in the Arctic Ocean, between the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea, off NE Russia. It is separated from the mainland by Long Strait.
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 was not the southern tip of a northern continent and had also proved essential facts about the polar drift. In traversing nearly 50,000 sq mi (129,500 sq km) of Arctic Ocean territory, De Long showed that the continental shelf of northern Siberia extends far northward and is dotted by numerous small islands. The expedition was also a demonstration of heroism. De Long's diary was edited by his widow as The Voyage of the Jeannette (1884). Melville's account was published as In the Lena Delta (1885).


See E. Ellsberg, Hell on Ice (1938), a fictionalized account; E. De Long, Explorer's Wife (1938); A. Hoehling, The Jeannette Expedition (1967, repr. 1969); H. Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice (2014).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

De Long, George Washington


Born Aug. 22, 1844, in New York; died Oct. 30, 1881. American arctic explorer.

De Long graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1865 and made his first voyage to Baffin Bay in 1873. In 1879 he headed the expedition on the Jeannette whose aim was to reach the North Pole and search for the expedition of N. A. E. Nordenskjöld. Northeast of the island of Gerald (Herald), the Jeannette was caught in the polar ice pack. While the ship was drifting, the islands of Jeannette and Henrietta were discovered. After the Jeannette sank in June 1881, her crew was forced to drift on an ice floe, in the course of which the island of Bennett was discovered. When De Long was able to leave the drifting ice, he and some of his crew reached the mouth of the Lena River, where he died of starvation. A group of islands in the East Siberian Sea was named after him.


In Russian translation:
Plavanie “Zhannetty.” Leningrad, 1936.


Laptev, S. Tragediia v ledianoi pushtyne. Irkutsk, 1937.
Vize, V. Iu. Moria Sovetskoi Arktiki, 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

De Long, George Washington

(1844–81) naval officer, explorer; born in New York City. He entered the navy in 1865 and became interested in Arctic exploration. He commanded the Jeanette in an attempt to reach the North Pole via the Bering Strait (1879–81). He died on the Siberian coast after his ship was crushed and sank.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.