Andrée’s Arctic balloon expedition
Andrée’s Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 was an effort to reach the North Pole. All three Swedish expedition members – S. A. Andrée, Knut Frænkel, and Nils Strindberg – perished. The fate of the expedition remained one of the unsolved riddles of the Arctic.
About Andrée’s Arctic balloon expedition in brief
Andrée’s Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 was an effort to reach the North Pole. All three Swedish expedition members – S. A. Andrée, Knut Frænkel, and Nils Strindberg – perished. The fate of the expedition remained one of the unsolved riddles of the Arctic. The chance discovery in 1930 of the Expedition’s last camp created a media sensation in Sweden, where the dead men had been mourned and idolized. The second half of the 19th century has often been called the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. The inhospitable and dangerous Arctic and Antarctic regions appealed powerfully to the imagination of the age, not as lands with their own ecologies and cultures, but as challenges to be conquered by technological ingenuity and manly daring. The verdict on Andree by modern writers for virtually sacrificing the lives of his two younger companions varies in harshness, depending on whether he is seen as the manipulator or the victim of Swedish nationalist fervor around the turn of the 20th century. In 1893, Andrée purchased his own balloon, the Svea, and subsequently made nine journeys with it, starting from either Stockholm or Gothenburg and traveling a combined distance of 1,500 kilometres. In the prevailing westerly winds, theSvea flights had a strong tendency to carry him uncontrollably out to the Baltic Sea and drag his basket perilously along the surface of the water or slam it into one ofthe many rocky islets in the Stockholm archipelago.
Even though he saw breakers and heard breakers off Öland, he remained convinced that he was traveling over land, though he was blown clear across the breadth of the Baltic to Gothenberg, and out over the Finland. During a couple of flights he tried out the drag-rope steering technique which he had developed and wanted to use on his projected North Pole expedition. The balloon lost hydrogen quickly and crashed on the pack ice after only two days. The explorers were unhurt but faced a grueling trek back south across the drifting icescape. The group ended up exhausted on the deserted Kvitøya in Svalbard and died there in October, 1897. In the following months, the balloon was repaired and the expedition continued on to the Bering Strait, Alaska, Canada, or Russia, and passing near or even right over the North pole on the way. The plan was received with patriotic enthusiasm in Sweden – a northern nation that had fallen behind in the race for the Northpole. Most modern students of the expedition now see AndRée’s optimism, faith in the power of technology, and disregard for the forces of nature as the main factors in the series of events that led to his death and those of Nils Strindberg and Frânkel’s disease in September 1917. In 1930, the expedition’s last camp was discovered.