Welcome Author Sandra Neil Wallace, here to talk about her new book, a story of discovery and courage. To enter for a free copy of Bound By Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story, see details below.
Some people are willing to die for what they believe in, including advancing humanity through discovery and science.
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
Six years later and now a Commander, George W. De Long was prepared. As thousands of spectators followed each stroke, he paddled toward the schooner that would take him farther into the Arctic than any explorer had gone before.
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.
When we first started researching the Jeannette’s voyage to reach the pole I’d seen a gigantic hunk of moss gathered by the crew from an island they’d discovered, and now kept at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
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.
Despite having enough fuel, food, warm clothes, and hunting equipment, nothing could compensate for the sketchy science, faulty maps, and deadly wrong beliefs that De Long and his crew of 33 relied on for their 1879 voyage to the North Pole.
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.
Rushing to save their logbooks, research materials, and provisions from plunging to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, the crew managed to escape safely before the Jeannette went under.
“Thankful were we to make our beds on snow instead of beneath the sea.” –Jeannette Engineer George Melville
Suddenly the voyage turned from a quest for the North Pole to a race for survival.
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.
They wrote SOS notes and lugged the ship’s 45-pound logbooks to higher ground so future explorers could learn from their discoveries. And that’s exactly what happened.
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.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories from history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers, in the blog comments, by email or social media.