Hampton Sides recounts a forgotten tragedy of American arctic exploration
Subscriber content preview. or Sign In
On July 8, 1879, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a refitted Royal Navy gunboat called the U.S.S. Jeannette left San Francisco headed for the North Pole. The expedition was sponsored by the newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett, who’d had some luck with this kind of thing before: he’s the one who sent Stanley to Africa to find Livingstone. The Jeannette was heated and insulated. Its hull was reinforced with trusses and beams to withstand the pressure of Arctic pack ice. It carried a set of arc lights supplied by Thomas Edison; its telephones and telegraph were from Alexander Graham Bell.