Traveling in a balloon is a dicey way to fly, even in the 21st century, on a non-breezy day. Traveling in a balloon above the Arctic Ocean in 1897 is beyond perilous - it's quixotic. But in an attempt to discover and fly over the North Pole, Swedish engineer S.A. Andrée and his companions, physics professor Nils Strindberg and civil engineer Knut Fraenkel, hoped to accomplish such a feat when they took off from Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago about 650 miles from the North Pole, in July 1897.
After two days, their hydrogen-filled silk balloon, Ornen (Eagle), deflated rapidly and landed on ice. The balloonists weren't hurt, but they were ill-prepared for survival in stark icy climes, especially with colder weather approaching. The exact date they perished, and how, are not known, but the last entry in Andrée's diary is October 8, 1897, when he noted they had to stay in their tent due to bad weather. They might have been felled by the cold weather and physical exhaustion; other possibilities include botulism or drowning.
No one knew their fate until 33 years later, when sealers and scientists aboard the Norwegian sealing ship Bratvaag discovered the balloonists' frozen boat, camp, and cadavers. Among the men's belongings, they found journals kept by Andrée and Fraenkel, along with Strindberg's camera and remarkably intact film.
This list features some of the 93 photographs salvaged from Strindberg's camera. They are haunting, a reminder of harsh Arctic conditions - and the explorers who dare to venture there so the rest of us know how difficult survival can be.
The Balloon 'Eagle' After Landing On The Svalbard Ice
The Balloonists' Camp, At The Landing Site
Balloonist S.A. Andrée With A Fallen Polar Bear
A Wide-Angle View Of 'Eagle' After Its Landing