1881 - John Wilson Danenhower
The Sinking of the Jeannette
Off the New Siberian Islands
When the order was given to abandon the ship, her hold was full of water, and as she was heeling twenty-three degrees to starboard at the time the water was on the lower side of the spar deck, I hope that our friend, the London Standard, will not now think that we deserted her and left her adrift in the Arctic, as was stated in one of the issues of that paper. We had a large quantity of provisions on the ice about a hundred yards from the ship, but Mi. Dunbar, who was alive to the occasion, advised the shifting of these to an adjacent and more favorable floe piece. It took us till 11 p. m. to effect the removal. We also had three boats - namely, the first cutter, second cutter, and the whaleboat. As soon as Dr. Ambler had looked out for Chipp, he relieved me at my post, and I went to work with No. 3 sled party, which I had been detailed previously to command. The order was given to camp and get coffee, so we pitched our tent abreast of the whaleboat, and I set about fitting out for the retreat.
While waiting for coffee, I walked over to the ship to take a final look at her, and found the captain, Boatswain Coles and carpenter Sweetman on the port side, looking at her underwater body, which was hove well out of water. I observed that the ship's side, between the foremast and smokestack, had been buckled in by the pressure, and that the second whaleboat was hanging at the davits, and also that the steam cutter was lying on the ice near by. Coles and Sweetman asked the captain if we could lower the second whaleboat, and the captain said, "No." The three boats, however, were considered enough, and while journeying on the ice, we afterward found Chipp's boat to be the favorite with all hands, because she was considered short and handy, with sufficient carrying capacity for eight men. I then suggested to the men to return to the camp, for the captain doubtless wished to be alone with the Jeannette in her last moments.
We then returned to the camp together, having to jump across numerous wide cracks, and from piece to piece, and soon after the watch was set and the order given to turn in. Most of us obeyed the order promptly, and were just getting into our bags, when we heard a crack and a cry from some one in the captain's tent. The ice had cracked immediately under the captain's tent, and Erickson would have gone into the water but for the mackintosh blanket in which he and the others were lying, the weight of the others at the ends keeping the middle of it from falling through. The order was immediately given to shift to another floe piece, which Mr. Dunbar selected for us. This was about three hundred yards from the untenable ship. After about two hours' work we succeeded in shifting all our goods and our three boats to it. We then turned in.
About 4 o'clock I was awakened by seaman Kuehne calling his relief, fireman Bartlett, who was in our tent. Kuehne called to Bartlett that the ship was sinking, and the latter jumped to the tent door and saw the spars of the Jeannette after the hull was below the surface. We heard the crash, but those were the only two men who saw the vessel disappear. It was said that the ice first closed upon her, then relaxing, allowed the wreck to sink; the yards-caught across the ice and broke off, but being held by the lifts and braces were carried down - depth, thirty-eight fathoms, as I remember. The next morning the captain and others visited the spot, and found only one cabin chair and a few pieces of wood - all that remained of, out old and good friend the Jeannette - which for many months ;had endured the embrace of the arctic monster. The Jeannette sank about 4 o'clock of the morning of Monday, June 13.
Our retreat commenced on the 17th.
Danenhower, John Wilson
History of the Adventures, Voyage and Terrible Shipwreck of the U.S. Steamer Jeannette …
New York 1882