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The story that comes from the northwest part of Siberia with reference to the discovery of the remains of some persons supposed to be Arctic explorers, has aroused the widespread inference that they are the remains of Andree and his expedition. The surmise may prove to be incorrect when the relics are brought back to civilization; but there are good reasons for the inference that has already been made, in that connection. There are several reasons for believing that the fate of Andree has at last been solved.

The Andree expedition was originally arranged to take place in the summer of 1896, and in August of that year the aeronaut with his party went to a point of land on the northwest side of the Scandinavian peninsula. The balloon was made ready for an ascension and the party merely waited for a favorable wind. Day after day the expedition waited, but finally the project had to be given up that year, as the wind continued unfavorable, and the explorer did not apparently dare to risk a voyage under such adverse conditions. He therefore went south again, announcing that his voyage must be postponed until the next summer.

This postponement gave rise to some unfavorable comment that was not altogether just or fair. This comment unquestionably served to irritate the explorer, however, and he announced that with any favorable opportunity at the next trial there would be no further delay, but the voyage to the Pole would certainly be made. In the summer of 1897 he again ascended to the northwest coast of the Scandinavian peninsula, and that time he was more fortunate, as he thought. At all events the wind proved favorable for a short time, and he took advantage of it to begin his voyage.

From that time to the present there came no word of his trip with the exception of a brief message borne by a homing pigeon to an ocean vessel and carried to port by that vessel. This message announced that the balloon was making good progress toward the Pole and that everything had gone well with the expedition. The message showed that it had been sent out soon after the balloon had started on its way, and because of the fact that no other messages were received, it was afterwards believed that some disaster had overtaken the expedition soon after the beginning of the voyage.

Yet, if the remains which were discovered in northwest Siberia were really those of Andree and his companions, it seems unreasonable to accept this theory. It is hard to understand how three men could have made their way from Franz Josef Land, for example, to Siberia without leaving some traces of their existence on that island, even if they had been able to construct some sort of craft to make a voyage South toward the Siberian mainland. The difficulty of building such a craft amid the Arctic snows would have been enormous, and even the apparatus taken with the balloon would have been insufficient for such a long voyage.

It is well known that expeditions have been sent in search of Andree and his balloon and returned without any definite result except the negative one that no traces had been found. A party explored Franz Josepf Land very carefully, but without hitting upon any indications that any parties had visited that place since the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition left that island. The first real indication as to the fate of the Andree expedition, since the receipt of the message borne by the homing pigeon seems likely to be found in the discovery in Siberia.

From the descriptions of the relics that have been discovered, it seems easy to infer that the explorers were carried by air currents entirely out of the way that Andree had expected to follow. This is not strange because little is known about the air-currents of the Arctic regions. Even so experienced an explorer as Capt. Nansen found himself altogether at fault in his calculations regarding the currents of the Arctic ocean, although they had been studied for years by exploring parties. It is not difficult to believe, therefore, that soon after leaving the European coast, the Andree balloon was deflected from its course and was carried in a southeasterly direction to the bleak interior of Siberia; that the three men tried to live through an Arctic winter and failed; and that they had been dead for many months when their bodies were discovered.


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:

Boston Advertiser, Boston, MA, Feb. 14, 1899

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Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

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