The effort to find the USS Jeannette
© RIA Novosti. Valery Melnikov

The effort to find the USS Jeannette

Participants in Russia's Jeannette-2016 expedition to the East Siberian Sea, which was sent to find the sunken USS Jeannette (1881), reviewed its first stage, a spokesman for the Association of the Polar Explorers of the Russian Federation told RIA Novosti. The Viktor Buynitsky, a research ship, was used in the expedition to the De Long Islands.

The expedition was organized by Maritime Technologies and Security, an autonomous non-profit subsidiary of the Russian Defense Ministry's State Research Navigation and Hydrocartographic Institute, at the initiative and with the involvement of Prince Albert of Monaco and the US National Geographic Society, the agency reports.

The expedition, that included a group of US researches as observers, left base on September 27, 2016, and reached the De Long Islands on October 8. It intended to carry out comprehensive maritime research in an obscure area off the islands, including an instrumented survey of the sea bottom, where the 1879-1881 US expedition presumably lost its ship. The Russian vessel returned to Arkhangelsk on October 31, 2016.

"During the first stage, the crew managed a number of complicated scientific investigations where the US ship had presumably gone down and was able to narrow down the search area," the spokesman said. Equipped with special underwater navigation sensors and a single-beam echosounder, the Russian ship, Viktor Buynitsky, served as a platform for the exploration.

"The US participants provided unique data from the Jeannette's logbook that helped make our effort more efficient," he said. Expedition researchers recorded unique and comprehensive data, including hydrological, hydrometeorological and hydrographic measurements. An area measuring more than 80,000 square meters was surveyed, an area that won't have to be included in the second stage.

The USS Jeannette sailed through the Bering Strait on August 28, 1879, heading for the North Pole. But the ship became trapped in the ice within days and drifted in the Arctic off the northern coast of Siberia for two years. The crew was well equipped for research and continued its intensive survey effort throughout the time they drifted.

The vessel was crushed and sunk in June 1881. Just a few crew members managed to escape with logbooks and a considerable amount of research data. The Jeannette expedition was a sensation in its time. Finding the wreckage will afford a unique opportunity for scientific investigation.