On July 11, 1897, Salomon Andrée, a Swedish engineer, physicist, and hot air balloonist, set out with two fellow countrymen on an expedition to the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon. With the support of the Swedish government and the royal family, Andrée became a celebrity for his daring expedition.
The balloon’s French manufacturer ensured that it would survive the brutal Artic climate. Andrée intended to steer with long ropes that would drag on the ice. However, mere moments after takeoff, they lost two of the three heavy steering ropes, causing the balloon to catapult up to high altitude. The change in temperature caused the balloon’s seams to tear and leak gas. The balloon drifted for three days before crash landing into the Arctic ice, leaving the three men stranded in the middle of the North Pole.
The Andrée expedition was considered lost—no one in Sweden had any idea what happened to the intrepid explorers and they became urban legends. False and disrespectful media reports speculated that indigenous Artic people had killed Andrée and his men with their savage ways.
Thirty years after the expedition, two Norwegian ships found the remains of the Andrée party while studying glaciers. They sent their bodies back to Sweden for burial and their belongings were placed in homes and museums. It was then that Neil Strindberg’s rolls of film were discovered. He originally intended to map the region from the air with his highly specialized cartographic camera, but the pictures became a visual diary of the expedition and the party’s struggle to reach safety.