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The Mystery of Andree


The Weird Balloon Journey Toward the Pole.

To Be Gone Perhaps A Year

An Eyewitness Describes the Scene at the Start.


Jonas Stadling, who accompanied Andree to Dane's Island and witnessed his departure toward the north pole, contributes to the November Century an article entitled "Andree's Flight Into the Unknown." This is accompanied by a number of interesting photographs, including several of the balloon after it had been cut loose and had begun its flight. Mr. Stadling says:

The aeronauts were impatient to start this year. They had decided to wait for really favorable winds until the 17th of July. After that date they were prepared to start with a less favorable wind. In my talks with them about the risks and dangers of their undertaking, they said at various times:

"We have taken all into account. We are prepared to face whatever may happen."

"Suppose the balloon should burst," I asked; "what then?"

"We shall be drowned or crushed."

"Suppose you alight on the pack ice, far away in the desolate polar regions; what will you do?"

"We shall do our best, and work our way back as far as possible. Having during these last years thought, worked and calculated in preparing for this expedition, we have, so to speak, mentally lived through all possibilities. Now, we only desire to start, and have the thing finished some way or other."

While talking about home and the loved ones their faces would assume a more serious expression, and a faint quiver of the voice might be noticed, but there was no wavering of purpose.

"When may we begin to hope to hear from your?" I asked.

"At least not before three months; and one year, perhaps two years, may elapse before you hear from us, and you may one day be surprised by news of our arrival somewhere. And if not -- if you never hear from us -- others will follow in our wake until the unknown regions of the north have been surveyed."


Those who think the expedition a feat of foolhardiness should remember that, humanly speaking, all possible precautions were taken toward securing a safe voyage. A new and larger balloon might have been (piece torn off) during the previous winter, but Andree (piece torn off) preferred to enlarge the old one; besides, a larger balloon would have been more difficult to handle.

After a sound sleep during that night (July 10), we were awakened the following morning with a joyous cry, which rang out in chorus from the younger members of the balloon expedition: "Southward! A strong and steady south wind!" We rolled out of our beds, jumped into our clothes and ran up on deck. Andree had already gone ashore. I hurried after, gave the carrier pigeons food and water, and went to the balloon house. Andree, who the night before had said to one of the younger members of the expedition, "I feel that it will not be long before we shall go up," looked a trifle more serious than usual as he walked about inside the balloon house and looked up at the balloon.

After a few moments' consultation, it was decided to wait for an hour, during which time the three aeronauts were to finish their correspondence and all private preparations. The fated hour passed; another consultation was held on top of the balloon house. Besides the aeronauts, M. Machuron of Paris, the nephew of M. La Chambre, the balloon manufacturer, took part in this consultation. Andree asked each one separately to give his opinion. All were in favor of starting, although the strong wind made the start somewhat risky. Then they came down. Andree as he went on board the Svensksund seemed to be more pensive than ever.

Getting Off.

The next morning Andree told the captain of the gunboat, Count Ehrensvard, that he had decided to start. Immediately the order was given to make the final preparations. This was 10:45 a.m., on the 11th of July. Then followed a few hours of intense work and great suspense. In less than an hour the northern side of the balloon house was pulled down, and in a little over two hours more the balloon had been raised a few meters, the basket securely fastened to its place, and everything else belonging to the last preparations accomplished.

All being ready to start Andree called me aside and told me that he had decided to call his balloon the Eagle (Ornen), and authorized me to publish its name; he gave me some messages and salutations to his relatives and friends, whereupon he, Mr. Strindberg, and Mr. Fraenkel, smiling, and without ceremony, warmly shook our hands and bade us farewell. Then Andree jumped into the basket and called out: "Strindberg! Fraenkel!" -- each jumping quickly into the basket as they were ordered. The extra sacks of sand were then unfastened by Strindberg and Fraenkel and the balloon was held only by three strong ropes manned by a number of sailors.

Andree now instructed the sailors to cut the ropes when he should say, "Three!" There followed a few moments of suspense and painful waiting for a favorable moment when the wind should not blow so hard. Exactly at 2:30 in the afternoon Andree called out with calm and steady voice, "Cut - one, two, three!" A simultaneous snap, and the gigantic balloon rose majestically out of its prison, while Count Ehrensvard shouted, "Lefre Andree!" ("Good luck to Andree").

Away She Went.

Then followed a strong Swedish four-fold "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!" while the daring aeronauts shouted back from above "Hesla gamla Sverige!" ("Salute old Sweden!") as the balloon lifted and started before the strong wind, on its way to the unknown regions of Ultima Thule -- a voyage more daring than any since ol Pytheas more than twenty-two hundred years ago sailed out of the port of Massilia (Marseilles), steering toward the unknown regions of the north.

As the balloon was being cut loose I ran upon the side of the mountain behind the balloon house, from which point I saw it ascending, and took a number of pictures of it as it started. With its weight of about five tons the gigantic balloon rose majestically to a height of about six hundred feet, then it suddenly descended until the basket touched the surface of the water. This depression was no doubt caused by the great resistance of the three heavy guide ropes, each measuring more than nine hundred feet, and which in some way or other must have caught upon something during the ascension, for it was found that a large part of them had been severed from the balloon and left on the shore. Notwithstanding this mishap -- which, it is hoped caused no injury, since to the balloon were attached eight ballast lines, each two hundred and fifty feet long, which might be used to lengthen the guide ropes -- the ascension was accomplished successfully, in spite of the strong wind. When the balloon had been relieved from the tension of the tangled guide ropes it rose again, following the current of the air between the mountains, first northeast and then north, whereupon it rose to some fifteen hundred feet, enabling it to pass over the mountainous island of Fogelsang, after an hour finally disappearing in a north-northeast direction.

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:

Washington D.C. Star, Washington, D.C. Oct. 30, 1897


Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

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