A "radically new method": Balloon buoy communications of the Baldwin-Ziegler Polar Expedition, Franz Josef Land, June 1902

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The history of lighter-than-air operations in the Arctic between 1896 and 1930 has focused almost exclusively upon four expeditions. These are the balloon voyage of the Swede Salomon Andrée in 1896-97, and the dirigible expeditions of the American Walter Wellman in 1906-09, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen with the Italian Umberto Nobile in 1926 and the Nobile expedition of 1928. Largely invisible in this lineage are the aeronautical operations of the Baldwin-Ziegler Polar Expedition on Alger Island in the Franz Josef Land Archipelago in 1902. This article traces expedition leader Evelyn Briggs Baldwin's interest in aeronautical exploration in the Arctic, which began early in life, led to a failed attempt to join Andrée in 1897 and culminated in his use of message buoys attached to balloons in June 1902. These operations, the fate of its balloon buoys and the historical archaeology of Baldwin's operational bases in Franz Josef Land and north-east Greenland are examined. Baldwin's poor planning and bad luck with ice conditions around Franz Josef Land caused him to use his balloon buoys not to reach northwards to the pole, but to send relief messages southwards towards civilization. Like the other polar aeronautical expeditions, Baldwin's left behind a significant archaeological assemblage that continues to provide evidence for the material analysis of the history of polar exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-72
Number of pages21
JournalPolar Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2008


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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