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The Italia Over The Pole



Throughout the years there have been many attempts to research and fly or visit the North Pole. The pole has always held a certain fascination with the human species. In the late 19th century there was a great race to see what craft and which direction was the best and fastest to get to the north pole while still surviving the harsh climate. Unfortunately multiple lessons were learned the hard way- including a lesson on ballooning in the arctic. Of the 1,000 people that tried to reach the North Pole in the late 1800's, only 249 survived according NPR's "Lesson Learned: Don't Fly to North Pole in a Balloon". That's less than 1/4 of the explorers.


Among these explorers was one S.A. Andree. In 1897, along with 2 crewmen, Andree took flight about 600 miles from the North Pole. He had believed that with "drag ropes" he could steer, much like the concept of steering a sailboat. The drag ropes would create enough resistance that they would be going slower than the wind and hence be able to steer the craft.


At the start of the flight the ropes became entangled, and then they got untangled, and then they fell. Andree and the crew had lost their method of steering the aircraft. Andree and his two crewmen became the first men ever to be lost in the air.


Thirty-three years later the skeletons of Andree and his crewmen were found on a Swedish island in the arctic by sealing sloops. In a book written by Alec Wilkinson, Andree's experience is described in detail. They had found Andree's journal, notes of the journey in air as well as on foot, and some undeveloped film in a tin can. There is much speculation to this day as to the cause of deaths, however the skeletons were cremated soon after their discovery.


Now it's 85 years since their last campsite was found, and 118 years since that fateful day the aircraft left Sweden. Much has changed, balloons have updated, and there have many excursions to the North Pole, but our sense of exploration and adventure has never diminished.