Page:The cruise of the Corwin.djvu/17

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INTRODUCTION

the Arctic Ocean—never to return. Crushed in the ice, she sank, June 12, 1881, in the Arctic Ocean, one hundred and fifty miles north of the New Siberian Islands.

The retreat southward across the ice-floes was one of great peril. Only thirteen out of thirty-four men ultimately reached civilization and safety. De Long himself, and ten of the men with him, died of starvation and exposure on the delta of the Lena River, where two of the Jeannette's storm-beaten cutters landed in the middle of September, 1881. One of them, commanded by Chief Engineer Melville, reached a Russian village on one of the eastern mouths of the Lena River. He promptly organized a search party, recovering the ship's records in November, 1881, and the bodies of his unfortunate shipmates the following spring.

When the North Pacific whaling fleet returned from Arctic waters in the autumn of 1879, two ships, the Mount Wollaston and the Vigilant, were reported missing. They had been last seen in October in the same general region, near Herald Island, where the Jeannette had entered the polar ice. The Mount Wollaston was commanded by Captain Nye, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of the keenest and bravest men that ever sailed the frigid seas. He it was who at a conference of whaling cap-