Wrangel Delta Drama 1879

The Jeannette departed San Francisco on 8 July 1879, commanded by George W. DeLong, with a plan to reach the North Pole via the Bering Strait In September she was trapped in the pack ice near the Wrangel Delta. For the next 21 months, Jeannette drifted to the northwest until, on the night of 12 June 1881, the ice pressure finally began to crush the ship. The 33 men unloaded provisions and equipment on to the ice and the ship sank the following morning. The men struggled southwards over the ice, dragging 3 boats on sledges until they reached open water. One boat with eight men was then lost in a storm, while another reached a village by the Lena Delta and the 11 men were rescued. Delong’s boat with 14 men landed on the other side of the Delta where there were no settlements. Two men were sent ahead for help and they also survived. A rescue party later found DeLong and nine others all dead on the tundra. Overall, the doomed voyage took the lives of 20 expedition members, as well as additional men lost during the search operations. The survivors could relate that no wooden ship could withstand the pressure of ice in such areas; it was only a matter of time before the ship would be crushed.

Source: Onsite informationboard