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The Mystery of Andree


Tragic Fate of the Daring Explorer Who Sought the North Pole.

Started In A Balloon.

Only One Message by Carrier Pigeon Soon After He Sailed Away.


Three Men Lying Dead Beside a Hut Made Out of Canvas Car of the Balloon.

Krasnoyarsk. Siberia, Feb. 10. -- A gold mine owner here named Monastyrschin has received a letter saying that a tribe of Tungusos, inhabiting the Timur Peninsula, North Siberia, recently informed the Russian police chief of the district that on January 7 last, between Komo and Pit, in the province of Veniseisk, they found a cabin constructed of cloth and cordage, apparently belonging to a balloon.

Close by were the bodies of three men, the head of one badly crushed. Around them were a number of instruments the uses of which were not understood by the Tungusos.

The police chief has started for the spot to investigate, as it is believed that the bodies are those of the aeronaut, Herr Andree, and his companions.

Wheteer (sic) or not Andree reached the North Pole must remain the subject for conjecture until his papers are found and examined. He may have been blown to this unreached spot, and then by a freak of wind carried toward the Siberian coast.

On the other hand when his balloon rose from Dane's Island it sweptin (sic) a northeasterly direction, somewhat toward the spot where the natives report finding bodies. From the vague report it is probable that the explorers had landed from their balloon, one being injured, and built a hut where they perished from cold and hunger.

Professor Andree and his two assistants, Strindberg and Fraenckel (sic), started on their sensational aerial search for the North Pole on July 11, 1897. The start was made from Dane's Island, of the Spitzbergen group, in the specially constructed and equipped balloon, Le Pole Nord (the North Pole), which was provisioned for three years.

It had been Andree's intention to make the trip in July of the preceding year. All preparations were complete, but after the expedition had rested on Dane's Island for three weeks it was found necessary to postpone the departure for a year, owing to the absence of favorable atmospheric conditions.

The Start from Danes Island.

The following year there was very little delay. Two steamers from Tromsoe, Norway, had taken to Dane's Island, besides the explorer and his assistants, a party of enthusiastic scientists. In their presence the side of the balloon house was removed, the inflated sphere attached to the car that was to bear the voyagers on their perilous mission, and without further ceremony the ropes were cast off and the balloon rose gracefully , floating off to the northward, followed by the cheers of the spectators.

Andree's last words to the world he had left behind scribbled on a page of his notebook and dropped over the side of the car were:

"In the name of all our colleagues, I send you our warmest greeting to our country and friends."

For about an hour the balloon was visible to those on Dane's Island; then it vanished into the haze of the polar sea. When they could no longer see the car of the voyagers or the sphere that upheld it, Andree's friends were suddenly aware that they were, in all probability, witnesses of one of the great tragedies of the century. On returning to Tromsoe several of them spoke privately of this feeling of depression which came over them while they made public announcement of the favorable start.

The Last and Only Message.

Only one authentic message from Andree was ever received. The explorer took carrier pigeons with him, and for several months after his departure there were periodical reports of messages returned by pigeons, and one of a message found in a bottle, but only one of these was verified.

The message was wrapped in a straw-paper roll, which was made waterproof by a wax covering. On the roll was written in Swedish the following instructions:

"Open the roll from the side and take out two letters. The letter written in regular script please wire at once to Aftonbladet. The shorthand letter mail by earliest post to the paper."

The captain of the Aiken did not find the letter mentioned, but the other message was found. It said:

"From Andree's Polar expedition to Aftonbladet, Stockholm, July 13, 12:30 p.m., 82 degrees 2 minutes north latitude, 15 degrees 5 minutes east longitude; find trip to the east 10 degrees south. Everything well on board. This is my third message by carrier pigeon."

Professor Andree was an engineer and chief examiner of the Royal Patent Office in Sweden. He was a delegate to the geographical congress held in London in July, 1895, and at that time first made public his purpose to solve the North Pole problem by means of a balloon voyage. His announcement was greeted by a storm of inquiries from the savants present, the debate being especially spirited between the aeronaut and General A.W. Greely, the United States Arctic explorer.

It ended in applause for Andree when, in answer to the inquiry of a Frenchman present as to what he would do if his balloon collapsed and he came down in the water without time to adjust his boat, he replied with one word:


After that Andree's enterprise was discussed with respect by scientists everywhere.

Preparing His Plans.

Andree drew his conclusions of the feasibility of the aerial route to the pole from his observation of the continued regularity of the winds blowing near the surface of the water. He believed that as the altitude increased, these currents would become even more regular and continuous.

The Swedish Government granted him $1,500 with which to experiment, which he did with a small balloon near Stockholm. The results of these experiments brought him the warm support of Baron Nordenskjold, the well-known Arctic traveller (sic), who undertook to raise the necessary funds for the polar trip -- aboat (sic) $36,000 -- which could have been raised ten times over, so enthusiastic were the scientists of his country.

After a tour of England and France to discuss his project with scientists of those countries, Andree went to Paris and placed with the house of Lachambre the order for his balloon.

Arrangement of the Car.

The balloon sack was made of varnished silk, the height of the sphere being 75 feet. The upper part was protected by a strong waterproof covering. Extending 22 feet below were the wicker work car and observation platform. The car was lined with varnished silk to keep out the wind. The bottom of the car was used for a sleeping apartment, one of the party using it at a time. Three feet above the observation platform was a wooden ring to which were attached the explorer's scientific apparatus, and in the netting, still higher, were three hundred canvas pockets to contain provisions for the trip.

To the netting also was attached the collapsible boat, the sledges and the harness for them. A unique cooking stove, to be swung twenty-five feet below the car when in use, was another feature of the equipment. The steering apparatus consisted of sails and guide ropes. Besides ordinary ballast there were long hempen cables designed to drag upon the ground or water and to be paid out or drawn in as occasion required. About 800 square feet of sail was provided for the scheme of navigation.

Andree's Hopes of Landing.

Andree calculated that he might land on his return from the pole either in Siberia, at about latitude 70 degrees north, longitude 135 degrees east; in the Samoyenden Peninsula, same latitude and 70 degrees east longitude; or in Alaska in the vicinity of Cape Barrow, where there is a United States Government post. Circulars advising people how to capture the balloon and rescue the aeronauts were printed in four languages and distributed throughout the stations in northern Scandinavia, Finland, Russia, Siberia and British America. Andree expressed the belief that if he descended on the land anywhere he would be no worse off than Nansen was.

As a result of the distribution of circulars the details of Andree's exploit were soon familiar to the inhabitants of the most remote settlements adjacent to the Arctic Ocean. Whaling vessels touching at Siberian points received the news of Andree's voyage, and their crews were constantly on the lookout for the balloon or signs of the party having taken to sledges on the ice. Rumors of such signs were received in Sweden from time to time, but never with verification. The balloon has never been seen since it sailed away from Danes Island.

Searches for Andree.

There have been several expeditions sent out in search of Andree. A German expedition that went up to Spitzbergen from Hammerfest in August of last year, sailing eastward to King Charles's Land, returned reporting no trace of the voyagers. Captain Nathorst, heading a Swedish party, covered the same ground late in August, but brought back no news.

When the Wellman party, headed by the American explorer, reached Hall Land last July, no news had been received at that place. Another Swedish expedition, commanded by J. Stadling, under the auspices of the Swedish Geographical and Anthropological Society, went as far east as longitude 127, and wrote from Bulkur, on the Lena Delta, that there were no evidences (sic) of Andree having landed either on the continent or on the islands of New Siberia, several hundred miles still further east and north.

On November, 1897, the steamer Victoria, sent out by the Governor of Tromsoe, under instructions from King Oscar, returned without tidings after an extended voyage as far north as the ice would permit.

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



Original Source:

New York Journal, New York, NY. Feb. 11, 1899


Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

Graphics digitized by:
Patrick Harper
University of Kansas.

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