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The Mystery of Andree


The mystery of the north exerts a mastering spell upon northmen. They all know that the north pole is nothing but a scientific expression, yet in default of any other cynosure it has been the goal of countless expeditions. Earlier it was the north-west passage to the Indies which every explorer strove for. It was found; but who has traveled it? The loss of Sir John Franklin and his crew upon that quest furnished a whole generation with a more tangible and more humane object of search. Mr. Andree's rash and probably fatal exploit has in turn furnished the adventurous with something to search for. A small exploring party, consisting of Herr J. Stadling and a scientific companion, is about to be despatched (sic) by the Swedish Anthropological and Geographical Society in search of Andree and his two friends. Since their ascent from Dane's Island, off the north-west coast of Spitzbergen, on the eleventh of July last, it is safe to say that not the faintest rumor of a trustworthy nature has been made public, which has afforded any inkling of their fate. There have been plentiful reports of balloons having been seen in widely separated localities, of carrier pigeons captured bearing apocryphal messages, and even of uncanny cries proceeding apparently from space, but absolutely nothing by which the course or whereabouts of the enterprising voyagers could be traced. When Andree's balloon was last seen by the crew of the 'Svenskund' it was speeding in a north-north-east direction at a rate estimated at about twenty-two miles an hour. It was, in fact, travelling almost in the line of a meridian about twenty degrees east of Greenwich. If it continued in this direction and got anywhere near the pole it would probably be liable to one of three possibilities. It might be caught in the return current of air undoubtedly to be met with in high latitudes, and borne in almost a directly opposite course to that which it had previously pursued. In this case it might be carried either to Spitzbergen or to Franz Josef Land. Or after drifting about on contending currents it might be carried towards Greenland or some part of the northern coast of America. Thirdly, it might have drifted, as the promoters of Herr Stadling's expedition seem to think, towards Siberia.

The first contingency is the least likely to occur, and Nansen's experience appears to militate against the probability of the third. It is true that at certain seasons during the period of the 'Fram's' imprisonment in the ice the wind blew and the ice moved southwards, but the general direction, as the whole drift of the vessel showed, was northward and still more, westward. Starting out from New Siberia Islands, she reached a high latitude, and finally emerged on the western side of Spitzbergen. Nansen's plans were indeed framed on the supposition that such a drift prevailed. Herr Andree began his course almost where Nansen's terminated, and if the dominant air currents experienced by Nansen were at all persistent they should tend to carry the balloon to north Greenland, or perhaps to a point more to the westward; in fact, very much in the direction taken by ice drifts in this part of the Arctic basin, which, however, is distinctly not towards Siberia. Of course, if any contingency led to Andree's party wintering either on Franz Josef Land or the Liakhov Islands, there is always a possibilty (sic) of the adventurers having found their way to the Siberian coast, the enormous extent of which will make their discovery a difficult task for Herr Stadling. Although it seems highly improbable that they will ever be heard of in life again, yet will the efforts of the latest expedition be watched with much interest and with devout wishes for its complete success. If Andree ever does turn up alive Nansen will be nowhere. He and his men will share honors with Thor and Baldur in their Utgard exploits.


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:
Montreal Witness, Montreal, Quebec,
Canada. April 23, 1898

Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

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