In the Lena Delta
is the story of the U.S. explorer and naval engineer, George Melville, who led an expedition that found the remains of Lieutanant G.W. De Long and his party from his previous expedition on the Jeannette. In July of 1879, as chief engineer, Melville set sail with De Long from San Francisco on the Jeannette through the Bering Strait, heading for Wrangel Island off the northeast coast of Siberia. On September 5th, the ship became trapped in the pack ice near Herald Island (now Gerald Island), east of Wrangel.
With Melville’s engineering skill, the boat was kept afloat for almost two years until it was finally crushed on June 12, 1881. The crew, including De Long, escaped with most of their provisions and three small boats. Their destination, the Siberian coast, lay some 600 miles away. They endured extreme hardships for the next two months as they crossed the ice. After reaching open water, one of the boats and the men aboard were lost. The remaining two boats became separated. De Long's boat reached the eastern side of the Lena River delta, Melville’s, reached the western side. Melville's party was rescued, but De Long and his men died of exposure and starvation.
In the Lena Delta is the modest retelling of the incredible hardships the searchers endured on their 500-mile trek in the successful search for the remains of De Long and his party. After a long arduous journey by boat and sled, Melville and a group of men reached the Siberian shore and obtained help at the mount of the Lena River. The following spring he led an expedition that found the remains of De Long and his party.
De Long’s journal, in which he made regular entries until shortly before his death, was discovered and later published in Our Lost Explorers, The Narrative of the Jeannette Arctic Expedition, also available from eBooks.