Supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and funded by people like King Oscar II and Alfred Nobel, Andrée’s polar exploration project was the subject of enormous interest. The North Pole expedition made a first attempt to launch the balloon Örnen (The Eagle) in the summer of 1896 from Danes Island, an island in the west of the Svalbard Archipelago, but the winds did not permit the expedition to start.
When Andrée next tried, on 11 July 1897, together with his companions engineer Knut Frænkel and photographer Nils Strindberg (a second cousin of playwright August Strindberg), the balloon did set off and sailed for 65 hours. But already at the lift-off the gondola had lost two of the three sliding ropes that were supposed to drag on the ice and thus function as a kind of rudder. Within ten hours of lift-off, they were caught by powerful winds from a storm raging in the area. The heavy winds continued and, together with the rain creating ice on the balloon, impeded the flight.
It is likely that Andrée realized before the flight ended that they would never come near the pole.
Into the Mists – S.A. Andrée’s Balloon Expedition Towards the North Pole
The Fram Museum