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The Mystery of Andree


Two More Expeditions Fail To Find Traces of Him.

Tidings from Swedish Parties that Circumnavigated Spitzbergen and Explored Siberia.

Every month or two fresh tiding are received from some expedition that has been hunting for the daring but unfortunate explorer, Andrée, who left Dane's Island, in the Spitzbergen group, early in July, 1897.

The Spitzbergen Islands lie mostly below the 80th parallels of north latitude, and between the 11th and 28th of longitude east from Greenwich. The spot from which Andrée's balloon ascended is at the northwestern corner of the archipelago, in longitude 11 and latitude 80. He had hoped for a wind directly from the south. It is a well-established fact that at a certain elevation above the earth's surface, except near the equator and poles, there is a steady breeze blowing to the eastward. To what extent this wind prevails in the Arctic it would be hard to say, but it has seemed to the majority of experts in atmospheric currents that if the brave Swede were to get up high enough, he would be immersed in this atmospheric stratum and be carried due eastward, or possibly a little to the south of east; and fears were entertained that any surface current that bore more to the northward would prove to be only a temporary affair.

Two or three days after Andrée set fourth a carrier pigeon from him brought the news that he had gone a degree and a half eastward and over two degrees northward. He had traversed a distance of about 150 miles in a direction more northerly than easterly; and that is where this thrilling story ends. Up to date there had been no sequel to relate.

Within the last two or three weeks two exploring parties sent out last spring, have been heard from. Their tidings are of a discouraging character, though not more so than might have been expected, perhaps.

A German expedition that went up to the Spitzbergen from Hammerfest, on the northern coast of Norway, returned late in August. Although a good deal of geographical detail regarding King Charles Land, off to the eastward of Spitzbergen, was learned by Herr Lerner and his companions, they could get no light on Andrée's fate. A point in the centre of King Charles Land lies in about latitude 79 and longitude 32 east from Greenwich. Herr Lerner not only visited this region and remained ten days there, but he also explored the north eastern part of Spitzbergen carefully. These facts were briefly mentioned in The Tribune a month ago.

It now appears that a Swedish expedition, under Captain Nathorst, has also visited substantially the same places as the German party. The whole Spitzbergen group was circumnavigated by the Swedes, the highest latitude reached by them being 81:14. Captain Nathorst arrived at Tromsoe, on the northern coast of Norway, only two or three weeks ago.

Franz Josef Land lies further east than Spitzbergen. Its boundaries are the 41st and 63d parallels of longitude, and most of the archipelago is north of the 80th parallel of latitude. When the Wellman party landed at Hall Land, last July, no news had been received at that place from Andrée, and it seems probable that if the man for whom so much solicitude had been felt for the last fifteen months had landed anywhere in that vicinity, the fact would have been known to the natives where Wellman went ashore -- in latitude 80 and east longitude 58.

Simultaneously with the return of Captain Nathorst to Tromsoe letters were received in London from another Swedish expedition. The latter was commanded by Herr J. Stadling, and went out under the auspices of the Swedish Geographical and Anthropological Society. This expedition went further eastward than any of the others just mentioned. The commander writes from Bulkur, on the Lena Delta, in longitude 127. Herr Stadling says that not only has he been unable to discover any evidence of Andrée's having landed on the continent, but he has news from the islands of New Siberia, several hundred miles to the northeastward of his camp, and he knows that nothing had been heard of the explorer there. Herr Stadling writes under date of July 19, and his letters have been nearly three months on the way.

The following extract from his letter shows that he intended in September to start homeward, but to continue his search on the way. At first he would follow the coast and then push inland, but pursuing a generally westerly course until he got in that part of Siberia which is near the European boundary. He says:

Summer travelling with reindeer (riding on their backs) is very slow and difficult on account of rivers, marshes, mosquitoes and storms, and we with sledges may travel much cheaper and three times faster. We therefore decided to wait till autumn in the Lena Delta. We would thereby also gain the advantage of obtaining with the steamer Lena, which will arrive here the third and last time in the beginning of September, the last news from home. If no news of the Andrée expedition then arrives, or no other plans are found better, we intend to go by open rowboat, about 600 kilometers (373 miles), from Bulun to the mouth of the Olenek, and from there with reindeer or dogs over Anabar, Chatanga, Taimyr, Dudinka (near the mouth of the Yenisei) and Krasnoyarsk, in all about 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).

As the winter here begins in the middle of September, we intend to go by sledges from the mouth of the Olenek in the latter part of September, and we hope to arrive in Chatanga in three weeks, I.E., in time to meet with the natives congregating there in the fall in order to trade. From these we will obtain information as to how far north on the Taimyr peninsula the different native tribes nomadize and ask them to look out for evidences or traces of the Andrée expedition. If we receive such information as shall make it necessary, we will ourselves from Chatanga try to go northward in the month of March. We, however, entertain the hope that such news will reach us from home as will make such a journey superfluous. In the mean time, however, we have commenced building a boat, with which we eventually will go to the mouth of the Olenek.

At the mouth of the Olenek are natives (Tunguses), who have promised to furnish us with reindeer and two men and we have here found a Norwegian, Herr Torgersen, who came with Nordenskiold (sic) twenty years ago, who knows the language of the natives, and who has promised to go with us to Chatanga. From here we shall go alone, because there are said to be people on the way knowing Russian. The Governor of Yakutsk kindly furnished us with a Cossack officer as guide, but as he is not used to voyaging by sea we shall send him back to Yakutsk.

The place where we are now staying (Bulkur) is interesting in many respects. Situated near the point where the Lena, after having cut its way through the Verkoyanski mountain chain, empties its gigantic masses of water through a large number of canals into the Polar Sea, this place affords a beautiful view in its wild grandeur.

It was here that the Tunguse, Andrasoff, whom I met the other day, found the two men of De Long's party in the autumn of 1881, who had left their unfortunate comrades in order to try to find people who could render them help in their extreme distress. Andrassoff (sic) wore the golden medal which he received from the Government of the United States for having saved the lives of the two members of De Long's party.

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 Tribune, New York, NY. Oct. 16, 1898


Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

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