Jeannette Monument - Atlas Obscura

Jeannette Monument

A memorial to an ill-fated Arctic expedition pursued by the U.S. Navy.  


In 1879, as the USS Jeanette left port in San Francisco, most of the world had been mapped and explored. The Arctic, though, remained a mystery: No one had yet reached the North Pole, and scientists and sailors believed they might find an open sea route to it. In an effort to extend the map, the Navy outfitted an expedition—with financial support from a media mogul who wanted to publish gripping stories of the Far North—to sail to the Arctic through the Bering Strait. 

On July 8, the Jeannette set out with 33 crew under the command of Captain George De Long. In August, they passed through the strait. By September, they were trapped in ice. For nearly two years, they drifted with the ice until, in the summer of 1881, the ship was crushed, forcing the crew to abandon the Jeanette and use their small boats to try and sail to the coast of Siberia. 

Of the three boats, one was lost at sea, and the other two separately reached land. But all but two of the sailors on the boat led by Captain De Long died from starvation and exposure, and only 13 crew survived and returned home.  

The voyage left two legacies. While leaving the sinking Jeannette, De Long brought the logbooks of scientific data collected by the crew, and their environmental observations and sea-ice data remain valuable to scientists today.

The second is the monument, erected in 1890 at the Naval Academy Cemetery and based on the cairn built by the other sailors to mark the final resting place of De Long and the perished crew. Its inscription reads: “Commemorative of the heroic officers and men of the United States Navy who perished in the Jeannette Arctic Exploring Expedition 1881.”

Know Before You Go

The monument is located on the Naval Academy grounds. Information on access and respectful behavior is available on the Naval Academy’s website.

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