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Polar Expeditions.

Andree has now been absent for nearly sixteen weeks, a time much longer than his balloon was expected to hold out and longer than he calculated the wind currents would take to carry him over the polar regions. There can be no doubt that he is lost or wandering by boat or sledge in the wastes of the Arctic seas. It is by no means certain that he is lost, for he was well provided with an outfit should he be compelled to leave his balloon and take to either water or land. If that were his fate, we could expect no news of him for some time yet. Even if lost, we may yet hear from him, for it was a part of his plan to throw over messages secured to float for an indefinite time on the seas. Some of these may eventually be picked up. But there are few ships at long intervals in those regions and it will take years for the messages to float into navigated waters by the return winds and currents and through the ice. It was almost absurd to expect any of his carrier pigeons to return over those vast seas. All announcements of that kind may be set down at once, at least hereafter, as idle tales.

Relief expeditions are now in order. One has already started from Sweden and others may follow. But these all labor under the difficulty that, unlike the usual expeditions, no one knows which way he went or can even guess where he brought up. And the polar field is large and trackless. He will, if alive, leave marks of his journey at every convenient spot; but these are easily passed. A mile or two on either side and they will not be seen. So the question is again forced on us, is the game worth the candle? What is there still unknown in that vast region worth our finding out at such a cost? Nansen, the most experienced man living, says there is nothing in it worth the loss of life and the cost of searching.

All this struggle is prompted more as a child struggles to solve a puzzle than as an attempt to gain any real knowledge. It is the unknown that attracts, not any reasonable expectation of gain to science or human comfort. So far the substantial benefits gained have been out of all proportion small compared with the cost. Yet all civilized mankind will still hope that Andree may come back to the world again. It will be justified in the hope that no more such foolhardy attempts will ever be made. After a reasonable time relief expeditions and searching for his tracks should cease; and while that region is free from adventurers, no more should be encouraged or permitted to go into them. Some day, owing to progress in the art of transportation, further advances may be made with safety. As for instance, when an air ship can be navigated from New York to Calcutta some one may be justified in making excursions further and further into those regions. Meanwhile it is our only source to wait for developments.


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:
 

Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI. Nov. 4, 1897

 
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Transcriber: 
 

Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

 
 
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