George De Long

Date Of Birth:
22 August 1844
Date Of Death:
31 October 1881
Place Of Birth:
New York City, New York
Best Known As:
The polar explorer who led the U.S.S. Jeannette

Name at birth: George Francis De Long

George Washington De Long was a U.S. naval officer who led a failed expedition to the North Pole by way of the Bering Strait and perished in 1881. Raised in New York City, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. As a young naval officer, De Long sailed the world, including a stint aboard the U.S.S. Juniata as it searched in 1873 for survivors of the Arctic expedition Polaris (led by Charles Francis Hall). De Long caught the Arctic bug and managed to put himself in position to be selected to lead a U.S. expedition to find passage to the pole by sailing north of the newly-acquired territory of Alaska. Financed by New York Herald owner James Gordon Bennett, Jr., De Long took the U.S.S. Jeannette and its crew north to the 72nd parallel before becoming ice bound in September of 1879. They drifted to the north latitude of 77º 15' until June of 1880, when the Jeannette sank. De Long and his men then trekked with sledges and three boats more than a thousand miles, before getting separated on the waters off the Siberian islands. In the end, De Long and his men starved to death in October of 1881. His chief engineer, George Melville, survived in a different boat, then returned north in the spring of 1882 and finally found the remains of De Long and his crew. The third boat, under the command of Lt. Charles Chipp, was never found. De Long's body was re-interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in February of 1885. Of the original crew of De Long and 32 men, only 13 survived.

Extra Credit

As a young man, George De Long changed his middle name from Francis to Washington… George De Long’s ship, the U.S.S. Jeannette, was named after the sister of the expedition’s benefactor, James Gordon Bennett, Jr…. George Melville, the ship’s engineering officer, went on to become Rear Admiral (1899) and Engineer in Chief of the Navy (1900).

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