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The proposed polar expedition by balloon is beginning to assume shape. The balloon will be made in Paris, Engineer Andree, of Stockholm, will be in command, and Dr. Ekholm, of the University of Upsal, will be the meteorologist of the expedition. A photographer named Strindberg will take snap shots on the way.

The air ship will have a capacity of 4,500 metres. It will be made of silk of several thicknesses, made waterproof and varnished so that it will be absolutely impermeable.

The cost of the balloon, all told, will be about fifty thousand francs. The constructors have agreed to accompany the expedition to Spitzbergen to look after the inflation of the balloon and direct the preparations for the departure. The air ship is to be finished by May 11. The acids, the materials necessary for making hydrogen gas, and the shed to be put up to shelter the balloon during the process of inflation, will be carried to Spitzbergen from Sweden by a vessel of the Royal Navy. The ascension will take place at one of the islands of Norskoearna, a little archipelago northeast of Spitbergen (sic), about 650 miles from the pole.

The balloon will carry three guide ropes, wieghing (sic) altogether 1,000 kilogrammes. One of their uses will be to diminish the speed of the air ship, so as to enable the travelers to govern it to some extent. By starting from a station so near the pole, the aeronauts will be able in a few hours to get beyond the latitudes that have been reached so far by any expedition. A number of photographs will be taken, giving an exact idea of the regions over which the party will be taken by the caprices of the wind. The guide ropes will hold the balloon at a height not exceeding 200 metres.

After passing over the pole the travelers expect to reach civilization on the other side, or at least a locality where they will have a chance to be sighted by a whaler.

According to the calculations of Dr. Ekholm, it is probable that the expedition will remain at least fifteen days in the air, and that during this period the balloon will travel a distance of over 3,000 miles. A collection of 2,000 photographs is expected.

How the men expect to protect themselves for fifteen days from the intense cold which they will encounter in mid-air in the regions of eternal winter is not even suggested. It does not seem possible that any amount of furs would suffice. To sustain life upon the ice, where it is at least possible to secure some shelter, is extremely difficult, as experience has taught; in the frail car of a balloon, where the men will be constantly exposed to the intense cold of the open air, it must seem impossible. It looks as if this expedition will result in the sacrifice of several human lives and nothing more.

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:

Albany Express, Albany, NY. Jan. 16, 1896

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Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

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