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The Andree balloon expedition is now assured up to the point of departure for Spitzbergen. The generosity and scientific spirit of the King of Sweden, added to assistance given from other quarters, have enabled the leaders of the expedition to purchase such a balloon as they require, and arrangements have been made to have this delivered at Stockholm in time for a vessel of the Swedish royal navy to take it on board and start north by May 11. The actual starting point of the balloon is to be one of the Norwegian Islands on the northwestern side of Spitzbergen, a little to the north of Dane Island, where Mr. Walter Wellman intended to begin his "dash" for the Pole. The balloon will be a large one, holding nearly 160,000 cubic feet of gas, and capable of easily carrying a load of 6600 pounds. The Parisian manufacturers guarantee its impermeability, so it is said, and the quality of resistance to hard knocks will be supplied up to the highest degree of tensile strength possible. The apparatus for filling the ship and, so far as is possible, for guiding and controlling its movements under the untried conditions which will confront the experiment in the Arctic atmosphere, is in process of completion at the present time.

It is 650 miles from the point selected for the departure of the balloon to the North Pole. M. Andree expects to cover this distance rapidly, if he can once fly his ship into a current of air which moves directly north. Meteorologists regard his faith that he will find such a current setting over the ice pack from Spitzbergen as unfounded, but he himself has lived some time in that cold region and he may have facts with him. The run before the wind, if he is right, can be quickly made, and the voyagers ought to speed far into the unknown district which surrounds the Pole in an exceedingly short time. In forty hours, in fact, they hope to attain their bourne and land for observations. After this they will set out for civilization, but at a more leisurely rate, suffering their craft to drift, if it will without endangering the party's return. Finally in fifteen days at the least and two months at the most, M. Andree believes that he will descend to some inhabited latitude of British North America, with the balloon in good condition and the party safe and sound.

This is a remarkable programme even for Arctic explorers to adopt. It raises the question of possible discovery north of the highest latitude yet reached to a prominence which justifies all sorts of speculations. Perhaps the point in connection with it which will awaken the most curious interest is as to the possibilities of long-distance balloon flights. Few voyages have been made which cover more than 400 miles. Yet the instances of successful trips for longer distances warrant M. Andree and his companions in believing that they are attempting nothing absolutely impracticable or unreasonable. The run made by La Mountain, in 1859, from St. Louis to Watertown, N.Y., spanned a distance of more than 800 miles. The little Ville d'Orleans, with two inexperienced aeronauts went from Paris, during the siege, to a point some 600 miles north of Christiania, Norway, before it could be stopped. The length of that extraordinary flight was not less than 1200 miles. In these days, the construction and guidance of airships have been improved greatly, and it is supposed, both by the Parisian experts and by the Swedish scientists who have been assisting M. Andree, that the question of a sustained flight in this case will be very satisfactorily answered by the character of the balloon, by its careful guidance and, providing it gets into a Polar current of air, by the elements themselves.

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:

Providence Journal, Providence, RI. Jan. 21, 1896

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Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

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