Ever since George W. De Long navigated through meandering fjords amid iceberg-filled waters off the coast of Greenland to rescue a failed trek to the Arctic, he knew he’d be back.
In 1873, no explorer had managed to reach the North Pole, but De Long learned valuable lessons from that rescue voyage.
1400 pounds of pemmican. CHECK
20 tons of coal. CHECK
40 pounds of lemon and orange peels to prevent scurvy. CHECK
36 sealskin caps. CHECK
He bid his beloved wife Emma a tearful farewell, knowing that he might never see her again. He’d stocked and remodeled the ship he was about to board with the latest maps, engineering tools, and provisions. He’d hired an all-star crew.
The USS Jeannette was the best equipped schooner ever to search for the North Pole.
At Dartmouth College, Rich located an SOS note that De Long had tucked into a crevice in Siberia’s Lena Delta.
And then there was the abandoned pair of sealskin pantaloons belonging to a crew member named Louis P. Noros. Found on a drifting ice floe three years after the Jeannette sank, it inspired a famous Norwegian explorer named Fridtjof Nansen to build a ship that would nearly make it to the pole.
We couldn’t believe that a headline-making voyage with such deep impacts on the future of the Arctic had been virtually forgotten.
And we were determined to discover what the courage of these American, European, Asian, and Yup’ik explorers looked like. We found it in their journals, diaries, and testimonies.
Arctic ice was not salt free, as they’d been led to believe, so drinking water became an immediate concern.
And there was no tropical sea once they reached the Arctic Ocean, as experts thought.
In fact, within two months of starting the voyage, they were bound by ice--trapped in the vice grip of an ice floe with nothing to do but drift, patching punctures made by the crashing ice and constantly pumping out water, hoping their ship wouldn’t split into smithereens. But it did! By then, they’d discovered new islands, flora and fauna, and taken hundreds of ice measurements.
“Thankful were we to make our beds on snow instead of beneath the sea.” –Jeannette Engineer George Melville
As crew members trudged through 500 harrowing miles of snow and slush toward Siberia in hopes of being rescued, they never lost their humanity.
They showed kindness toward one another in the most extreme circumstances. Their focus became keeping each other alive.
They shared rations, carried their sick friends, and recorded the events of each day in journals, no matter how weak and starved they were.
The ice measurements taken by De Long and his crew were transcribed by NOAA and are being used by scientists today to track climate change in the Arctic. And future explorers did reach the North Pole, of course, thanks to De Long and the Jeannette crew.
Through their notes and survivor stories, they also showed that saving lives is even more important than discovery.
Thank you, Sandra, for telling us about your new book. Click to learn more about
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace.
To enter your name in the drawing for a copy of Bound By Ice you must be a resident of the United States and leave a comment below. The winner will be announced here November 15, 2018.
Thanks everyone for entering! The winner is Sue Henifin.