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Great Adventures: Over the Arctic by Balloon

HIGH HOPES Andrée’s balloon is as filled with hydrogen as the Swedish explorer’s head is with hopes. It’s as ready as it will ever be for its first, and last, voyage

A mid the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration, at the end of the 19th century, more and more of the Earth’s extreme secrets were unlocked by great bearded adventurers. But the proud northern nation of Sweden was lagging behind. This was unacceptable, especially as its smaller neighbour Norway was producing such pioneers as explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

The Swedes found their hero in the shape of engineer, physicist and explorer of the skies Salomon August Andrée. An enthusiastic balloonist, Andrée convinced himself, and then a group of influential supporters – including Sweden’s King Oscar II and Alfred Nobel, dynamite inventor and founder of the Nobel Prize – that a prevailing wind and a big bag of hydrogen would allow him to stage a fly-by photoshoot of the as-yet-unseen North Pole.

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