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Further Discovery - The Isbjörn Expedition

The Isbjörn, a sealing sloop, was originally chartered in order to waylay the Bratvaag in the Polar Sea. The reporters aboard had hired the sloop to try to be the first to interview Dr. Gunnar Horn and the crew about the find that had been made on White Island. Through a series of misadventures, the Isbjörn was unable to start at the scheduled time and it became clear to the reporters that other news hounds had gotten a head start and that the Isbjörn would not reach the Bratvaag in time.

So the reporters and crew made the fortuitous decision to proceed to White Island and see if there was more to be found. They actually were fairly sure they would be unsuccessful, but they went there in hopes of locating the body of Fraenkel, the third member of the expedition.

The group arrived at White Island on Sept. 5, 1930 in fine weather and began to search after shooting 3 polar bears that were rummaging around the memorial cairn erected by the Bratvaag crew. They found the ice had melted in several places and was disintegrating in many others. Fragments of bone and various objects could be seen sticking through the rotting ice on the north side of the island.

Their first find was a sledge with fragments of clothing and objects scattered about; apparently just recently freed from the ice. They photographed the area and then began a systematic search. Not far from the memorial cairn they discovered several bones, some of which were still wrapped in clothing. Some of these were lying on the rocks, whereas others were still embedded in the ice. As they began to gather everything that was not frozen into the ice, they felt there was a plan to the site. It appeared that there was a depot of supplies near the sea where the sledge was located and then a dwelling place near the cairn and skeletal remains. So they began to search these two areas more extensively, digging carefully into the ice.

Since the information they had indicated that the Bratvaag had brought back two relatively complete bodies, they assumed that the bones they found were Fraenkel's. Imagine their surprise when they discovered an almost complete body deeply embedded in the ice in the dwelling area. This body was lying on its left side with the left hand pillowing the head. They carefully removed this body and transferred it to a basket which they ferried out to the Isbjörn. There the body was stored in a coffin on board.

In addition to the body, the Isbjörn crew found on the first day: balloon-cloth or tarpaulin, snowshoes, a sextant, a medicine chest, ; geological samples in a canvas bag, photographic film in a tin box, ammunition, oars and the remains of a canvas boat. They also located Fraenkel's almanac and three memorandum books, Strindberg's logbook, and several other items.

A second day of searching also proved fruitful as the group located an unopened box of provisions, a meteorological journal, and Strindberg's almanac-diary. The area the group felt was a dwelling place for the Andrée expedition was built against the hillside and had what appeared to be a framework of whalebone and driftwood. It might have been built of cloth or canvas.

An attempt to search a third day was cut short by a storm that was fast approaching, so the crew decided to give up the search and return to Tromsö, to hand over the finds to the scientific Commission. Much effort was made by Knut Stubbendorff, a reporter, to open and preserve Strindberg's logbook and the maps by separating the pages and drying each page separately.

On September 16, 1930, the Isbjörn was able to turn its finds over to the Commission and depositions were taken from the members of the crew and Knut Stubbendorff.

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Original Source:

Stubbendorff, K. (1930). The Isbjörn Expedition to White Island. In: Andrée's Story. Boy's Edition. NY, Blue Ribbon books. pp. 185-197.

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  Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D. - author  
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