George W. DeLong

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George Washington DeLong
GeorgeWashingtonDeLong original.jpg
Lt. Cmdr. George W. DeLong, in 1879,
just before leaving for the Arctic.
Born (1844-08-22)August 22, 1844
New York City, New York
Died October 31, 1881(1881-10-31) (aged 37)
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 DeLong[1] (August 22, 1844 – October 31, 1881) was a United States Navy officer and explorer.


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 DeLong 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, DeLong 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. DeLong 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. DeLong'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 DeLong

DeLong died of starvation near Matvay Hut, Yakutia, Siberia. Melville returned a few months later and found the bodies of DeLong 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]

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


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

Main article: Jeannette Monument

In 1890, the officers and men of the United States Navy dedicated a granite-and-marble monument to the memory of Lieut. George Washington DeLong 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.


  • DeLong, The Voyage of the Jeannette, comprising his journals, edited by his widow, Mrs. Emma J. (Wotton) DeLong (1883)
  • Emma Wotton DeLong, 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)
  • Sides, Hampton (2014). In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette. Doubleday. 

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Alternate spelling of name as De Long; used by his widow in all her publications, and by Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
  2. ^ During the Civil War, the Naval Academy was relocated from Annapolis to Newport.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sides, Hampton (2014). In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette. Doubleday.