To Capture a Tragic Moment

The George Washington De Long monument in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, features a sculpture of an explorer, hand above this face, scarf blown back, peering into the blinding snow.  The softness of the edges of the sculpture, give the statue a windswept appearance that portrays De Long’s last moments alive.

Lieutenant Commander De Long (August 22, 1844 – October 31, 1881) was an American Navy officer and explorer who was in search of passage to the North Pole by way of the Bearing Strait.  In 1879, he sailed northward from San Francisco on the USS Jeannette with a crew of 33 men.  The ship became trapped in the Chukchi Sea, surrounded by shifting sheets of ice which eventually crushed it.  The crew divided themselves into three groups, led by Executive Officer Charles Chipp, Chief Engineer George Melville, and De Long, each with a small boat which they dragged on the ice until they found open water in a hope to find land and rescue.

Melville’s boat reached land and the entire crew was rescued.  Chipp’s boat was lost and no trace of it or its crew has ever been found.  De Long’s crew made it to land but only two of the men survived—the two men who went ahead to find aid.  The rest of the crew, including De Long, perished in the snow.  Twenty men in total were lost during the expedition.

Melville went back in search of the crew members and found the frozen bodies of De Long’s crew.  De Long was found in a standing position, the last of his crew to die.  He was found with his journal and it is suspected, he wrote his last entry on the day he died.

To memorialize the Lieutenant Commander De Long, the sculptor Leonard Craske, of Boston, as described in the article, “Commemorating an Arctic Tragedy,” published in “Granite Marble and Bronze,” May 1929, pp. 21., was portrayed, “peering into the limitless waste of the Arctic.  The figure is carved from a huge thirty-one ton block of Bethel White granite, modeled to simulate an icy mass.”

The article went on to say, “Joseph Vanelli and Sons, of South Quincy, were appointed by the sculptor to execute the monument.  A native of Carrara, Italy, Mr. Vanelli is by profession a sculptor-carver and with the aid of his two talented sons. Eugene and Caesar Vanelli, this memorial was executed.”

The magazine page was provided by Peggy Perazzo who shares her vast collection of gravestone catalogs and resources at:

*  “Stone Quarries and Beyond Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StoneQuarriesAndBeyond/

*  Stone Quarries and Beyond Continues” (new web site – continuation of “Stone Quarries and Beyond”)

http://quarriesandbeyondcontinues.com/

The Quarries and Beyond Website and Facebook page were created by Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo. The collection focuses on historic stone quarries, stone workers and companies, and related subjects such as geology. Whenever possible links of finished products are provided on the Website. There is a “Quarry Articles” section on the Website that presents articles, booklets, and links from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including the 1856 “The Marble-Workers’ Manual.” The “Cemetery Stones and Monuments” section provides references and resources, including many old monument magazines, catalogs, price lists, and a photographic tour “From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments.”

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