“STANDING LIKE STATELY SENTINELS AROUND THE PORTALS OF HEAVEN”
Along with his companions - photographer Knut Fraenkel and engineer Nils Strindberg (to his right and further right respectively - Andrée’s balloon - The Örnen (Eagle) ascended from a specially built base on Danskøn (“Danes Island”, in the Svalbard archipelago). The balloon quickly disappeared from view. And forever.
The bodies of the three explorers were discovered 33 years later, along with their journals and photographic negatives.
Although the full contents of Andrée and Strindberg’s journal writings have never been released by the Swedish government, apparently genuine portions of entries were adapted into a song cycle by the composer Dominick Argento. A fascinating analysis of this can be found here.
Some extracts follow.
“THE GREAT BALLOON - Start from the Capitoline Grounds yesterday morning at 9:19 o’clock.”
(via The Daily Graphic, Tuesday October, 1873)
“Donaldson’s Atlantic attempt, launched from the Capitoline Grounds accompanied by reporters Alfred Ford and George Lunt, ended up being forced down by a rainstorm, to land on a Connecticut farm. Donaldson and Ford successfully abandoned the runaway balloon, but Lunt stayed with the balloon for a distance until he finally jumped into a tree, sustaining serious injuries from which he died six months later.” (via)
Washington Donaldson made his final ascent in Chicago on 14 July 1875. The body of his passenger, Newton Grimwood, was recovered from Lake Michigan over a month later. Donaldson and his balloon were never found. (via)
from The Daily Graphic, Thursday July 24th 1873 (via)
“Wise and Donaldson’s balloon was sponsored by the Daily Graphic and named after the paper. The launch was to take place from the Capitoline Grounds, with Wise planning to use a balloon 49 meters (160 feet) tall with a two-compartment enclosed car, but decided to end his involvement with the project. Donaldson persisted, acquiring a smaller balloon with an open boat for the car.” (via)
“In 1873, Washington Donaldson, a professional balloonist who had formerly worked for P.T. Barnum as a circus performer, along with fellow balloonist John Wise, collaborated on an attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot-air balloon.” (via)
“Mr Donaldson is an intrepid and fearless aeronaut, and the hero of innumerable romantic aerial adventures. Recently, he tells us, he has been doing “trapeze business,” because ordinary ascents of a balloon, with the operator standing in a basket, failed to afford a sufficiently startling sensation. Trapeze business is executing gymnastics of appalling description on a slender bar , suspended several feet below the bottom of a car, while the balloon is several thousand feet in the air.
Mr Donaldson has a fund of anecdotes of his huirbreadth escapes, which might form the basis of a score of lectures or novels. At one time his balloon burst while he was 3,000 feet high, and down he came. Luckily the empty sack formed a parachute, so that his descent, although rapid, was sufficiently broken to land him in a tree with only a few bruises. Another exploit was to
ascend and travel for ten miles in a paper balloon.”
(via Scientific American, September 13th 1973)
“Dignitaries and seamen cheer as japan’s first military balloon, made of
1,400 yards of paper with a rubber coating, is tested at the naval
ministry in 1877”