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January 05 , 2011

Quicklet on The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andree and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration by Alec Wilkinson



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“Except for the bottom of the sea or the center of the earth, the North Pole, at the end of the nineteenth century, was the world's last mysterious destination.”

The Ice Balloon: S.A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration retells the attempt by Swedish explorer S.A. Andrée to reach the north pole by hydrogen balloon. Writer Alec Wilkinson recounts the whole story of Andrée’s venture from its first conception to the final recovery of its lost artifacts, and intersperses his tale with other events in the history of Arctic exploration.

Wilkinson draws on previous accounts of Arctic exploration as well as original documents from various expeditions to reconstruct an era of scientific discovery. The book includes photographs taken by contemporaries of Andrée, including some that were shot on Andrée’s expedition and lost for decades when the undeveloped film was frozen in the ice along with the members of the party.


Nicole has been writing since she could make letters with a pencil, and has been making a living at it for more than ten years. She has gone back to school too many times, studying archaeology, folklore, writing and visual art. She writes fiction under several pen names, and also does printmaking, book arts, and photography. Nicole is an avid amateur natural historian with a particular fascination for things that fly, whether it's birds, bats or insects.


In 1893, a Norwegian named Fridtjof Nansen set off to strand his purpose-built ship, the Fram, in the Arctic ice with the hope it could drift to the north pole along with the ice. There were thirteen men on the crew, who lived in relative comfort compared to other Arctic explorers. Nansen had planned carefully and the Fram was well-insulated and warm.

He was not content to simply wait and set off with another crew member to attempt to reach the pole by dogsled. But his haste proved to work against him as they had to turn back. It was not until 1896 that they encountered other explorers, and were able to make their way back to their ship. This was the same time at which Andrée was planning his first attempt to launch his balloon.

In the summer of 1896 Andrée and his two crew members, meteorologist Nils Eckholm and photographer Nils Strindberg, along with a large crew of people to help build a temporary balloon shed and prepare for the journey, arrived in Spitsbergen.

By the end of the summer the attempt was abandoned due to a lack of favorable winds for the balloon.

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