Article ID: CBB109397659

In the silence of Virgohamna. Traces of the 1897 Swedish polar expedition between geohistorical observation and memory (2020)


At the north-western edge of Svalbard archipelago there are two small islands, Danskøya (Danes Island) and Amsterdamøya (Amsterdam Island), currently depopulated. In 1896 and 1897, Swedish engineer and explorer Salomon August Andrée chose small Virgohamna (Virgo Bay) on the northern shore of Danes Island, as starting point to reach the North Pole by a hydrogen balloon. Andrée’s expedition was quite ahead of his time, as well as reckless to some degree: it was to tragically fail and to disappear in mystery until the unexpected discovery of its remnants over thirty years later. Yet, the endeavor remarkably impressed the public of its time and inspired the following generation of explorers. In 2018, more than a century after Andrée’s flight, the Polarquest2018 expedition made a brief stop-over in the area and an expeditive survey with drones was conducted. The survey allowed to effectively acquire a view of the current conditions of the historical site, recognizing - among many other things - some minor remainings of the 1897 structures. The fading traces of Andrée’s base retain some archaeological value, but the main asset of the place is indeed its capability of impressing the visitor’s imagination. This is due to the fact that it is possible to identify dimensions, shapes and a few remnants of the once-existing Andrée’s infrastructure, and this occurs in an environmental and geographic context which underwent minimal change in more than a century. This allows to perceive, to some degree, its past nature as a place where the members of the expedition lived and operated, in such a way so as to be a relevant memorial in the history of Arctic exploration.

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Authors & Contributors
Boscani Leoni, Simona
Baumgartner, Sarah
Meike Knittel
Wråkberg, Urban
Markin, Viacheslav A.
Sollinger, Gunther
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Geographia antiqua
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Economic History Review
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
Potomac Books
State University of New York Press
Pickering & Chatto
Explorers and Exploration
Travel; exploration
Science and politics
Science and society
Earth sciences
Andrée, Salomon August
Welwitsch, Friedrich Martin Joseph
Humboldt, Wilhelm von
Giotto Dainelli
Polar regions
Latin America
Arctic regions
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
Kungliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademien

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