Salomon August Andrée

Last updated
Salomon August Andrée
Mansportratt. Andree, Salomon August - Nordiska Museet - NMA.0033031.jpg
Salomon August Andrée
Born18 October 1854
DiedOctober 1897 (aged 43)
Education Royal Institute of Technology
Occupationcivil servant (Patent Office)
Known for Arctic Balloon Expedition of 1897
Drawing from the newspaper Aftonbladet showing the festivities when the expedition leaves Stockholm for the first try to launch the balloon, in 1896 Andree.railway.station.png
Drawing from the newspaper Aftonbladet showing the festivities when the expedition leaves Stockholm for the first try to launch the balloon, in 1896
Ornen (The Eagle) shortly after its descent onto pack ice. Photographed by Nils Strindberg, the exposed plate was among those recovered in 1930. "Eagle".crashed2.jpg
Örnen (The Eagle) shortly after its descent onto pack ice. Photographed by Nils Strindberg, the exposed plate was among those recovered in 1930.
The grand homecoming of the bodies from the polar expedition to Stockholm, October 5, 1930 Funeral of Salomon August Andree.png
The grand homecoming of the bodies from the polar expedition to Stockholm, October 5, 1930

Salomon August Andrée (18 October 1854, Gränna, Småland – October 1897, Kvitøya, Arctic Norway), during his lifetime most often known as S. A. Andrée, was a Swedish engineer, physicist, aeronaut and polar explorer who died while leading an attempt to reach the Geographic North Pole by hydrogen balloon. The balloon expedition was unsuccessful in reaching the Pole and resulted in the deaths of all three of its participants.

Gränna Place in Småland, Sweden

Gränna is a locality situated in Jönköping Municipality, Jönköping County, Sweden with 2,553 inhabitants in 2010. It is situated in Småland on the eastern shores of the lake Vättern, about 40 km north of Jönköping.

Småland Place in Götaland, Sweden

Småland is a historical province (landskap) in southern Sweden. Småland borders Blekinge, Scania, Halland, Västergötland, Östergötland and the island Öland in the Baltic Sea. The name Småland literally means Small Lands. The Latinized form Smolandia has been used in other languages. The highest point in Småland is Tomtabacken, at 377 metres (1,237 ft).

Kvitøya island in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean

Kvitøya is an island in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, with an area of 682 square kilometres (263 sq mi). It is the easternmost part of the Kingdom of Norway. The closest Russian Arctic possession, Victoria Island, lies only 62 kilometres (39 mi) to the east of Kvitøya.


Early life and influences

Andrée was born in the small town of Gränna, Sweden; he was very close to his mother, especially after the death of his father in 1870. He attended the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1874. In 1876 he went to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where he was employed as a janitor at the Swedish Pavilion. During his trip to the United States he read a book on trade winds and met the American balloonist John Wise; these encounters initiated his lifelong fascination with balloon travel. [1] He returned to Sweden and opened a machine shop where he worked until 1880; it was less than successful and he soon looked for other employment.

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 960,031 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.5 million in the urban area, and 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the capital of Stockholm County.

Mechanical engineering discipline of engineering

Mechanical engineering is the discipline that applies engineering, physics, engineering mathematics, and materials science principles to design, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems. It is one of the oldest and broadest of the engineering disciplines.

John Wise (balloonist) American pioneer in the field of ballooning

John Wise was a pioneer in the field of ballooning. He made over 400 flights during his lifetime and was responsible for several innovations in balloon design. His balloon, The Jupiter carried 123 letters to make the first official airmail delivery run for the US Post Office in 1859.

From 1880 to 1882 he was an assistant at the Royal Institute of Technology, and in 18821883 he participated in a Swedish scientific expedition to Spitsbergen led by Nils Ekholm, where Andrée was responsible for the observations regarding air electricity. From 1885 to his death, he was employed by the Swedish patent office. From 1891 to 1894 he was also a liberal member of the Stockholm city council. As a scientist, Andrée published scientific journals about air electricity, conduction of heat, and inventions. A keen friend of Jonas Patrik Ljungström, he notably educated the former's sons Birger, and Fredrik Ljungström. [2]

Spitsbergen island of the Svalbard archipelago

Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 37,673 km2 (14,546 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-largest in the world. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Spitsbergen was covered in 21,977 km2 (8,485 sq mi) of ice in 1999, which was approximately 58.5% of the island's total area.

A patent office is a governmental or intergovernmental organization which controls the issue of patents. In other words, "patent offices are government bodies that may grant a patent or reject the patent application based on whether the application fulfils the requirements for patentability."

A city council, town council, town board, or board of aldermen is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality, or local government area.

His view of life was that of the natural sciences, and he entirely lacked interest in art or literature. He was a believer in industrial and technical development, and claimed also that emancipation of women would come as a consequence of technical progress.

Natural science branch of science about the natural world

Natural science is a branch of science concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances.

Expedition to the North Pole

Supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and funded by people like King Oscar II and Alfred Nobel, his polar exploration project was the subject of enormous interest and was seen as a brave and patriotic scheme. [3] The North Pole expedition made a first attempt to launch the balloon Örnen (The Eagle) in the summer of 1896 from Danes Island, an island in the west of the Svalbard Archipelago, but the winds did not permit the expedition to start. When Andrée next tried, on 11 July 1897, together with his companions engineer Knut Frænkel and photographer Nils Strindberg (a second cousin of playwright August Strindberg), the balloon did set off and sailed for 65 hours. This was not directed flight, however; already at the lift-off the gondola had lost two of the three sliding ropes that were supposed to drag on the ice and thus function as a kind of rudder (this was observed by the ground crew). And within ten hours of lift-off, they were caught by powerful winds from a storm raging in the area. The heavy winds continued and, together with the rain creating ice on the balloon, impeded the flight. It is likely that Andrée realized before the flight ended that they would never come near the pole.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the royal academies of Sweden. It is an independent, non-governmental scientific organisation which takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.

Oscar II of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway

Oscar II was King of Sweden from 1872 until his death, and the last Bernadotte King of Norway from 1872 until his dethronement in 1905.

Alfred Nobel Swedish chemist, innovator, and armaments manufacturer

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist.

For these reasons, they were forced down onto the ice, though the landing was conducted in a semi-controlled way rather than actually crashing. They had covered 295 miles (475 km) and floundered on the pack ice. The expedition was well equipped for travelling on the ice (three sledges and a boat) and had supplies for three months; also there were three deposits in northern Svalbard and one in Franz Josef Land. They set off eastbound for the latter, but after a week they had moved west due to the currents which moved the ice. They then changed direction towards northern Svalbard; movement was slowed down by ice drift and by the craggy surface of the pack ice. The three had to pull the sledges themselves, and despite good reserves of food, added to by their shooting polar bears, the efforts against the moving, uneven ice wore them out.

Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic

Franz Josef Land, Franz Joseph Land or Francis Joseph's Land is a Russian archipelago, inhabited only by military personnel, located in the Arctic Ocean and constituting the northernmost part of Arkhangelsk Oblast. It consists of 191 islands, which cover an area of 16,134 square kilometers (6,229 sq mi), stretching 375 kilometers (233 mi) from east to west and 234 kilometers (145 mi) from north to south. The islands are categorized in three groups, a western, central and eastern, separated by the British Channel and the Austrian Strait. The central group is further divided into a northern and southern section by the Markham Strait. The largest island is Prince George Land, which measures 2,741 square kilometers (1,058 sq mi), followed by Wilczek Land, Graham Bell Island and Alexandra Land.

They reached land in early October after over two months on the ice, setting foot on Kvitøya (White Island), just east of Svalbard. They perished there, probably within two weeks after landfall. Most modern writers agree that Nils Strindberg died within a week of arrival: he was buried among the rocks (though no marker was placed on his grave) while the other two men were later found in the tent.

Diary notes and observations end just a few days after they landed on Kvitøya; up to that point these had been kept up even in hard conditions; this seems to indicate that something critical happened after a few days. It is likely that Strindberg met his end at this point. It has not been possible to establish the reason for his death. Suicide (which would have been possible with opium) is very unlikely in his case even though by this time all three no doubt realized they would die. Whatever Strindberg might have felt about the outcome of the expedition, it is near certain that he would have judged the option of suicide as treachery to his fellow explorers. [4]

The diary notes of the expedition indicate that all three men were sometimes plagued by digestive trouble, illness and exhaustion during the trek over the sea ice. The ultimate cause of death probably had something to do with the ingestion of polar bear flesh carrying Trichinella parasites,[ citation needed ] which were found in the remains of a polar bear on the spot examined by the Danish physician Ernst Tryde and published in a book in 1952 called "The Dead on White Island". There is no doubt that the men became infected at some point during the ice trek, though the exact time span is unclear (and this matters because humans normally develop immunity to trichinosis if they survive the first wave of infection). When they arrived at White Island they were suffering from recurrent diarrhea. A plausible indication of this is that some of the provisions they brought ashore (obviously after a few days of scouting to the west) were unloaded and left near the water and not carried to a safer place near the camp.

In contrast, Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson theorized in his book 'Unsolved Mysteries of the Arctic' that Nils Strindberg probably had died while chasing a polar bear, perhaps from drowning, and Andrée and Frænkel had asphyxiated on carbon monoxide from a malfunctioning stove while cooking in their tent. To account for the unburned amount of fuel in the stove Stefansson referred to his own experience with malfunctioning stoves that required regular pumping up to keep burning. In his opinion they had not lost hope of getting back, but they had made many mistakes and would have died of something else if they hadn't died when they did.


Until Andrée's last camp was found in 1930, what could have happened to the expedition was the subject of myth and rumours. In 1898, eleven months after Andrée's first sighting of White Island (which he called New Iceland) a Swedish polar expedition led by A. G. Nathorst was passing by just 1 km offshore from the camp, but the weather stopped them from getting ashore. Already around this time, it was noticed that a heavy storm had been raging and that the expedition had lost the steering lines at departure, and experienced polar explorers surmised already before 1930 that the expedition couldn't have got very far and had likely been forced down on the ice. Finally the remains of the three men were found in 1930 by the Norwegian Bratvaag Expedition which picked up remains including two bodies. A month later the ship M/K Isbjørn, hired by a newspaper, made additional finds, among them the third body. Notebooks, diaries, photographic negatives, the boat and many utensils and other objects were recovered. The homecoming of the bodies of Andrée and his colleagues Strindberg and Frænkel was a grand event. King Gustaf V delivered an oration, and the explorers received a funeral with great honors. The three explorers were cremated and their ashes interred together at the cemetery Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

Modern assessments

Starting in the 1960s, Andrée's status as a national hero has become questioned and a cooler, more skeptic view began to prevail, in a way not unlike the changing assessment of Robert Falcon Scott's South polar journey. The emphasis has turned to the fact that the expedition was bound to fail, and that Andrée obviously refused to take in information that questioned the expedition's feasibility (and also had meagre actual flight experience with large balloons, and none in Arctic conditions). Andrée has been seen as a manipulator of the national emotions of his age, bringing a meaningless death on himself and his two companions. [5] Several modern writers, following Per Olof Sundman's Andrée portrait in the semidocumentary novel Flight of the Eagle ("Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd", 1967), have speculated that Andrée, by the time of the departure for Svalbard in 1897, had become the prisoner of his own successful funding campaign and the excited national feelings, and was now incapable of backing out or admitting weaknesses in the plans in front of the press. [6]


Andrée Land in Greenland was named after him by Swedish Arctic explorer A.G. Nathorst. [7]

The Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli wrote a poem about Andrée's expedition and death. [8]

Andrée's writings were adapted into the song cycle The Andrée Expedition by the American composer Dominick Argento, written for the Swedish baritone Håkan Hagegård. Swedish composer Klas Torstensson's opera "Expeditionen" (1994–99) is also based on Andrée's story. [9]

In 1982, the Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell directed a film based on Sundman's book, Flight of the Eagle .

In 2010, the American rock group Brian's Escape created a seven-track concept album inspired by Andrée's adventures entitled The Journey: An Account of S. A. Andrée's Arctic Expedition of 1897. [10]

The 2010 novel Strindberg's Star by Swedish writer Jan Wallentin revolves around the story of the expedition. The explorers reportedly found two relics which opened a portal to the Norse underworld and set off a chain of events connecting both world wars and the modern day with ancient Norse myths.

In 2012, English band The Greenland Choir included a song Reindeer, 1897 on their E.P. Here we are, wandering around like ghosts, which was inspired by Andrée. [11]

In 2013, UK/ Norway theatre company New International Encounter (NIE) created a show charting the story of the ice balloon in co-production with The North Wall Oxford and The Key Theatre. North North North premiered at The Key Theatre, Peterborough on May 9, 2013 and toured across the UK and internationally.

A 2013 novel Expeditionen: Min Kärlekshistoria by Swedish writer Bea Uusma retells the story from the point of view of Strindberg's love for his fiancée, Anna Charlier.


  1. Wilkinson, Alec. "The Ice Balloon", The New Yorker. April 19, 2010. p39.
  2. Fredrik Ljungström 1875-1964 - Uppfinnare och inspiratör (1999), Olof Ljungström
  3. "Lesson Learned: Don't Fly To North Pole In A Balloon". NPR . Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  4. Per-Johan Östberg, Tolkning, förståelse, vetande (Interpretation; understanding, knowledge), Stockholm 1979, p.116 - the book makes a long and rigorous analysis of the written and physical traces of the Andrée expedition and how these may be harnessed in rational interpretation of the course of the journey.
  5. This assessment is discussed in several contexts in Vår position är ej synnerligen god... by Andrée specialist Sven Lundström, curator of the Andreexpedition Polarcenter Archived 2006-01-09 at the Wayback Machine in Gränna, Sweden (see for example p. 131) and it's also a key underpinning of P-O. Sundman's two books, Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd and Ingen fruktan, intet hopp
  6. See Kjellström, p. 45, and Lundström, pp. 6973.
  7. "Catalogue of place names in northern East Greenland". Geological Survey of Denmark. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  8. "Odi e Inni". Archived from the original on 2012-03-31.
  9. "The expedition".
  10. "The Journey: An Account of S. A. Andrée's Arctic Expedition of 1897". The Journey. Brian's Escape. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  11. "Here we are, wandering around like ghosts".

Related Research Articles

Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld Finnish/Swedish geologist, mineralogist and arctic explorer

Baron Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was a Finnish baron, geologist, mineralogist and Arctic explorer. He was a member of the prominent Finland-Swedish Nordenskiöld family of scientists.

Alfred Gabriel Nathorst Swedish explorer and geologist

Dr Alfred Gabriel Nathorst HFRSE FLS FGS was a Swedish Arctic explorer, geologist and palaeobotanist.

<i>Flight of the Eagle</i> 1982 Swedish film directed by Jan Troell

Flight of the Eagle is a Swedish biographical drama film which was released to cinemas in Sweden on 26 August 1982, directed by Jan Troell, based on Per Olof Sundman's novelization of the true story of S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897, an ill-fated effort to reach the North Pole in which all three expedition members perished. The film stars Max von Sydow as S.A. Andrée, Sverre Anker Ousdal as Knut Frænkel and Göran Stangertz as Nils Strindberg. Dutch-Swedish songwriter Cornelis Vreeswijk plays the role of the journalist Lundström.

Theodor Lerner was a German journalist and polar explorer who conducted several expeditions to Svalbard. In 1897 he witnessed the start of S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 and took part in the search for Andrée in 1898 during a journey with Friedrich Römer and Fritz Schaudinn. He visited Bjørnøya in 1898 and 1899, exploring the viability of coal mining and eventually claiming ownership of the island as a territory of the German Empire. This enterprise proved unsuccessful but raised some publicity, earning him the nickname "Nebelfürst". In 1908 after overwintering the polar night with Hjalmar Johansen in a cabin at Cape Boheman on Spitsbergen, he and Johansen travelled over the inland ice to Spitsbergen's northwest coast.

Andrées Arctic balloon expedition S. A. Andrées Arctic Balloon Expedition of 1897

Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 was an effort to reach the North Pole in which all three expedition members perished. S. A. Andrée, the first Swedish balloonist, proposed a voyage by hydrogen balloon from Svalbard to either Russia or Canada, which was to pass, with luck, straight over the North Pole on the way. The scheme was received with patriotic enthusiasm in Sweden, a northern nation that had fallen behind in the race for the North Pole.

Knut Frænkel Swedish engineer and arctic explorer

Knut Hjalmar Ferdinand Frænkel was a Swedish engineer and arctic explorer who perished in the Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 of S. A. Andrée in 1897.

Danes Island island

Danes Island is an island in Norway's Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. It lies just off the northwest coast of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the archipelago, near to Magdalenefjorden. Just to the north lies Amsterdam Island. Like many of Svalbard's islands, Danes Island is uninhabited. The island has an area of 40.6 km2 (15.7 sq mi).

Nils Strindberg Swedish photographer

Nils Strindberg was a Swedish photographer who was one of the three members of S. A. Andrée's ill-fated Arctic balloon expedition of 1897. Strindberg was invited to the expedition to create a photographic aerial record of the arctic. Before perishing on Kvitøya with Andrée and Knut Frænkel, Strindberg recorded on film their long doomed struggle on foot to reach populated areas. When the remains of the expedition were discovered by the Bratvaag Expedition in 1930, five exposed rolls of film were found, one of them still in the camera. Docent John Hertzberg of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm managed to save 93 of the theoretically 240 frames. A selection of these photos were published along with the diaries of the expedition as Med Örnen mot Polen, a book which credits the three explorers as its posthumous authors. In an article from 2004, Tyrone Martinsson published some digitally enhanced versions of Strindberg's photos of the expedition, while lamenting the lack of care with which the original negatives were stored from 1944.

Victoria Island (Russia) island in Russian Arctic

Victoria Island is a small Arctic island of the Russian Federation. It is located at 80°9′N36°46′E, halfway between the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land.

The BratvaagExpedition was a Norwegian expedition in 1930 led by Dr. Gunnar Horn, whose official tasks were hunting seals and to study glaciers and seas in the Svalbard Arctic region. The name of the expedition was taken from its ship, M/S Bratvaag of Ålesund, in which captain Peder Eliassen had sailed the Arctic seas for more than twenty years. The Bratvaag Expedition had a secret, but important mission: the annexation of Victoria Island for Norway. Although a successful landing on the island was achieved, Victoria Island was later annexed by the Soviet Union. The Bratvaag Expedition became nevertheless well-known due to the findings on Kvitøya of the long-lost remains of the Swedish explorer S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897.

Gunnar Hansen Horn was a Norwegian petroleum geologist and Arctic explorer. He is most renowned as the leader of the Bratvaag Expedition that found the long-lost remains of S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 at Kvitøya in 1930. The headland Hornodden of Kvitøya is named after him.

Andrée Land (Greenland) peninsula in Greenland

Andrée Land is a peninsula in King Christian X Land, East Greenland that is bounded by Kejser Franz Joseph Fjord, Isfjord and Geologfjord.

Anna Charlier fiancée of Swedish Polar explorer Nils Strindberg

Anna Albertina Constantia Charlier (/'ʃaljə/) ) was a Swedish woman, today most commonly remembered as the fiancée of Nils Strindberg, participant in the North Pole expedition of S. A. Andrée in 1897.

Vilhelm Swedenborg Swedish balloonist

Gustaf Vilhelm Emanuel Swedenborg son of lieutenant colonel Gustaf Erik Oscar Swedenborg and Maria Therése Fock, was a member of the Swedish military and an aeronaut, today remembered as a reservist on Salomon August Andrées failed Northpole-expedition in 1897 and for being one of the first Swedish balloonists. He was also the first person to hold an aeronautical certificate in Sweden, issued in 1905.

Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve nature reserve

Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve is located in the north-eastern part of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. The nature reserve covers all of Nordaustlandet, Kong Karls Land, Kvitøya, Sjuøyane, Storøya, Lågøya, Wilhelm Island, Wahlbergøya and a small section of the north-east corner of Spitsbergen. The reserve is 55,354 square kilometres (21,372 sq mi), of which 18,663 square kilometres (7,206 sq mi) is on land and 36,691 square kilometres (14,166 sq mi) is on water—making it the largest preserved area in Norway. It includes the largest glacier in Norway, Austfonna, as well as Vestfonna and parts of Olav V Land. The reserve has been protected since 1 July 1973 and borders in the south to Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve.

Virgohamna is a small bay on the northern coast of Danes Island, an island off the northwestern coast of Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen and Danes Island are islands of the Svalbard archipelago. The bay is named after SS Virgo, the vessel of Swedish engineer and explorer Salomon August Andrée's 1896 expedition. Virgohamna is located across a small strait from Smeerenburg, a historical whaling station on Amsterdam Island about 2 km to the north.

Norra begravningsplatsen cemetery of Metropolitan Stockholm; located in Solna, Sweden

Norra begravningsplatsen, literally "The Northern Cemetery" in Swedish, is a major cemetery of the Stockholm urban area, located in Solna Municipality. Inaugurated on 9 June 1827, it is the burial site for a number of Swedish notables.

Andréeneset is headland at the southwestern point of the island of Kvitøya in the Svalbard archipelago. It is named after engineer and Arctic explorer Salomon August Andrée.

Spitsbergen Airship Museum

The Spitsbergen Airship Museum is a museum located on the island of Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen, the capital of the Arctic Ocean archipelago Svalbard. It has been formally renamed as the North Pole Expedition Museum. It was co-founded by the Italian Stefano Poli and the Norwegian Ingunn Løyning. Plans to open the museum began in 2005. Originally a new building was supposed to be built to house the museum, but following a fallout with one of the share-owners in 2007 this idea was scrapped, and instead the Airship Museum was opened in 2008 in Longyearbyen's former pig farm, which previously had housed the Svalbard Museum as well.