Andre Salomon August

Salomon August Andrée, a Swedish engineer, led the first aerial expedition in search of the North Pole. With two other Swedes, Andrée lifted off in a hydrogen-filled balloon from Virgohamna (Virgo Harbor), on Dansk0ya (Danes Island), in the Svalbard archipelago, on the afternoon of July 11, 1897. The three men were never seen alive again, and their bodies were not discovered until the late summer of 1930.

In the spring of 1876, Andrée visited the US Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where he met American balloonist John Wise, read C.F.E. Bjorling's The Laws of the Winds, and decided that prevailing trade winds could push cargo and passenger balloons along regular air routes. After six months in America, Andrée returned to a succession of mechanical jobs in Sweden.

In 1882, Andrée joined an expedition to Svalbard led by Nils Ekholm of the Meteorological Institute of Stockholm, part of the first international geophysical year. Following this Arctic experience, Andrée returned to Stockholm and in 1885 was promoted to the position as chief engineer of the Swedish Patent Office.

In 1892, Andrée successfully applied for a grant from a Stockholm foundation in order to obtain a hydrogen balloon. This research balloon, which Andrée envisioned as a test platform for aerial photography and photogrammetry research, was christened Svea (Sweden). On July 15,1893, with Andrée its lone occupant, Svea lifted off to explore Sweden and the Baltic from the air. Over the course of the next 20 months, Andrée's nine ascents in the balloon covered some 1300 km in less than 40 h, an average speed of 30 kph. While traveling Andrée recorded some 400 scientific observations.

Andrée's experience led him to plan a daring balloon voyage to the North Pole. On February 13, 1895, he announced the attempt to the Swedish Anthropological and Geographical Society. The proposal earned the support of both A.E. Nordenskiold and Alfred Nobel—the latter providing half the expedition's funding.

Andrée arrived in Svalbard in June 1896 to construct a base camp for his polar flight on Dansk0ya. This launch area included the balloon, named Ornen (Eagle), as well as a prefabricated balloon shed and a hydrogen-generating plant. Remains of these last two constructions remain at the present-day site. The harbor where Andrée located his camp later took the name of the ship that brought him there, the Virgo.

Andrée equipped Ornen with an instrument ring to carry range finders, anemometers, and two specially designed cameras. Built with Zeiss lenses and highspeed shutters, these cameras would record the balloon's passage across the polar sea and provide the first aerial remote sensing of the Arctic environment.

Early in August 1896, Fridtjof Nansen's ship Fram appeared in Virgohamn. Without Nansen, Fram was returning home to Oslo after a three and a half year drift through the polar basin, during which Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen attained their now-famous latitude of 86° 14' N. Andrée, however, did not find the favorable south winds he anticipated and was forced to return to Stockholm.

Andrée returned to Virgohamn in the summer of 1897 along with balloon crew members Nils Strindberg and Knut Fraenkel, and reserve member G.V.E. Svedenborg. On July 11,1897, Ornen lifted off from Dansk0ya and proceeded north at an exponentially faster rate than any prior polar expedition. Where most sail and sledge expeditions were lucky to cover a few kilometers per day, Ornen covered 3 km approximately every 5 min during the first hours of the flight. Progress stopped, however, two and a half days later, near latitude 83°, as humidity, ice, and hoarfrost forced the balloon onto the ice pack.

After 65.5 h of flight, the crew decided to crashland the balloon, approximately 500 km northeast of Dansk0ya and 700 km short of the Pole. A forced march southward over the pack followed. The men shot polar bears for food, dragged a boat on top of a sledge, and were drenched by repeated falls into the icy water.

Two years after the launch, on the coast of Kong Karls Land in southeast Svalbard and about one hundred miles from Andrée's balloon shed, his "Polar Buoy" was discovered. The buoy would have been dropped from the car of Ornen as it passed over the North Pole. A year later, in August of 1900, another buoy was found, along with another note describing the first buoy that Andrée had deposited on the ice, at ten o'clock in the evening of July 11, 1897. Relief expeditions were sent north to look for the balloonists, but no further traces were found.

On August 5, 1930, a Norwegian sealer making routine Arctic surveys landed on Kvit0ya (White Island), a small island off the far northeastern coast of Svalbard. The expedition's scientist, Gunnar Horn, identified the remains of three bodies, as well as a boat prow imprinted with the words "Andrée's polar exp." Horn also identified the diaries of both Andrée and Strindberg, a meteorological log kept by Fraenkel, and many of the expedition's artifacts, including rifles, the sledge, and the canvas boat.

The diaries revealed that the flight had lasted three days, during which time the balloon was as much dragged as flew across the pack ice. A study of the diaries also led to the hypothesis that the men died from the cumulative effects of eating poorly cooked trichina-infected bear meat; they died at Kvit0ya. Several rolls of undeveloped film were also found on the island, which, after 33 years in the ice, were developed in a laboratory in Sweden. The resulting images remain some of the most eerily fascinating in all of the history of exploration.

For many decades, historians and other experts considered the flight more or less a suicidal fiasco. Yet in recent years, scholars have reevaluated Andrée's polar balloon expedition and concluded otherwise. Many historians now see it as a serious and seminal exploration conducted by a scientist-aeronaut prepared to dare the lives of himself and his crew in the furtherance of knowledge of the Arctic basin, of the North Pole itself, and of remote sensing in extreme environments.

Biography

Salomon August Andrée was born in the village of Granna, Sweden, alongside Lake Vattern, on October 18,1854, into a family of four brothers and two sisters. He was educated first by his mother, then spent time at the State High School in nearby Jônkôping, before entering Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology in 1869. By the age of 26, he began publishing articles on social, economic, and political problems, and authored a series of articles arising from his research during the Swedish expedition to Cape Thordsen, Svalbard, during the first geophysical year in 1882-1883. Andrée's flights in the Svea provided material for a further series of scientific articles.

Nearly a dozen geographical features in Svalbard have been named after Andrée, including a point on Kvit0ya where the bodies of Andrée and his companions were discovered in 1930; Andrée Land, the considerable area between Woodfjorden in the west and Wijdefjorden in the east; and a bay in Kong Karls Land.

P.J. Capelotti See also Nansen, Fridtjof; Race to the North Pole

Further Reading

Bergengren, Erik, Alfred Nobel, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1962

Berton, Pierre, The Arctic Grail, New York: Viking, 1988

Capelotti, P.J., The Wellman Polar Airship Expeditions at Virgohamna, Dansk0ya, Svalbard; A Study in Aerospace Archaeology, Oslo: Norwegian Polar Institute, Meddelelser Nr. 145, 1997

-, By Airship to the North Pole: An Archaeology of

Human Exploration, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1999

Glines, C.V. (editor), Polar Aviation, New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1964

Grierson, John, Challenge to the Poles, Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Press, 1964

LaChambre, Henri & Alexis Machuron, Andrée's Balloon Expedition in Search of the North Pole, New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1898

Lundström, Sven, Andrée's Polar Expedition, Gränna: Wiken, 1988

Norsk Polarinstitutt, The Placenames of Svalbard, Oslo: Norsk Polarinstitutt (Skrifter Nr. 80 and 112; Ny-Trykk), 1991

Sundman, Per Olof, The Flight of the Eagle, New York: Pantheon, 1970

Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, Andrée's Story: The Complete Record of His Polar Flight, 1897, New York: Viking Press, 1930

Wrâkberg, Urban (editor), "Andrée's folly: time for reappraisal?." In Centennial of S.A. Andrée's North Pole Expedition Proceedings of a Conference on S.A. Andrée and the Agenda for Social Science Research of the Polar Regions, edited by Urban Wrâkberg Stockholm: Bidrag till Kungl. Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Historia (Contributions to the History of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences), No. 28, 1999, pp. 56-99.

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