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WAS IT ANDREE?

That two such explorers as NANSEN and NORDENSKJOLD should have combined to discredit the story that comes from Siberia of the finding of the remains of ANDREE and his party is of course pertinent. But it does not seem to be conclusive. The grounds upon which the explorers base their refusal to credit the story are not given. Presumably they are theoretical, and founded upon computations and conjectures of the same kind as those which led ANDREE himself to believe that he would fall in with a current which would waft him due north over the pole, and then deposit him upon the mainland of North America.

This particular computation would be shown to be invalid if the story of the discovery were true, and the remains of ANDREE and his party had been found upon the Timur (sic) peninsula. The point at which the discovery is said to have been made is not only not on the course which ANDREE expected to make, but could be reached only by a course very nearly at right angles to that course, provided the wind held true in the upper strata to which he ascended. But that the wind is steady there is a mere hypothesis. It is conceivable that the balloon may have been baffled and blown about in a dozen directions before it descended. The only certainty is that it must have descended nearly nineteen months ago, or within a few days after it was launched into the unknown. If its occupants came down alive they must have come down either in the sea or upon a land which is even more remote and inaccessible than the Arctic Ocean, or they would long ago have been heard from. This might have happened to them in any one of the bleak lands that fringe the polar circle, and except to a geographer with a theory, there is no more reason why the aeronaut should have descended at one point rather than at another of this frozen and inhospitable coast. If he had come down in Greenland, in Alaska, or at any but a very fortunate spot on the long Siberian shore that more than half encircles the globe ten degrees outside of the circle, it would have been months before he could have made his way, under the most favorable conditions, to an outpost of civilization and let his safety and his whereabouts be known to mankind. The chances overwhelmingly were that he would succumb to cold and hunger before doing this, just as it is reported that he has done.

GRAPHIC OF ANDREE AND HIS BALLOON

There is no reason whatever for distrusting the good faith of the story. There are no yellow journals in North Siberia, and few of any hue, and whatever interest there may have been among the few educated Russians in those parts about the fate of ANDREE has long ago lapsed. It is not a rumor-breeding atmosphere. And so, when a Russian residing at Krasnovarsk pretends that he has received news from a place a thousand miles across the frozen wastes to the northward that a month and more before bodies and a cabin were found which might have been the remains of the explorers and their balloon, there is no reason upon the surface why the story should not be true. Incredulity in the face of such a story is not a proof of superior knowledge or caution.

In any case, there can scarcely now be a doubt that ANDREE and his companions have perished, and in any case their fate cannot affect the heroism of their exploit. To push out into space backed only by one's own faith in one's own theory, and to take a chance against overwhelming odds, is the very bravery, for which COLUMBUS has been so honored for these four hundred years. That he found a continent and that poor ANDREE has found only a grave makes no difference in the quality of the courage involved. "Thinking too precisely on the event" is in the face of such an exhibition of cold-blooded and dauntless valor, " a craven scruple." And, indeed, ANDREE'S scheme was, "a priori," as sane and rational to us as was COLUMBUS'S to his contemporaries. It is coming to be agreed that it was the countrymen of ANDREE, and not the Genoese, who first of Europeans visited these shores. The exploit of ANDREE shows that the descendants of the Scandinavian Vikings have not degenerated.


Reproduced with permission: L.L. Dyche, Explorations (Newspaper Clippings Related to Polar Exploration), Vol. 1 & 2. University Archives, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence, KS.

 

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Original Source:
 

New York Times, New York, NY. Feb. 14, 1899

 
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Transcriber: 
 

Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

Graphics digitized by:
Patrick Harper
University of Kansas

 
 
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