Looking down at Virgohamn from the ridge to the west, 1993

Looking down at Virgohamna from the ridge to the west, 1993

On a remote and uninhabited fortress of an island in the Svalbard called Daneskøya lies the icy anchorage of Virgohamna (in English: Virgo Harbor). The first two attempts to reach the North Pole through the air were launched from this small harbor, just before and just after the turn of the 20th century. The American journalist Walter Wellman visited the island in 1894 during his first polar expedition. The Swedish engineer Salomon August Andrée arrived two years later, in 1896, to begin his attempts to reach the pole in a balloon.

P.J. Capelotti at the Wellman site at Virgohamn, 1993

P.J. Capelotti at the Wellman site at Virgohamna, 1993

Nearly a century later, in the summer of 1993, I lived for three weeks on the shoreline of Virgohamna, within sight of the ruins of those early American and Swedish aeronautical expeditions, studying their archaeological remains.

This goal of this page is to bring together in one place the records related to Wellman’s polar expeditions that called at or were staged at this site: in 1894, 1906, 1907, and 1909.  We will start with a pdf of my 1997 Norsk Polarinstitutt report on the archaeology of the site, and follow it with the entire photographic record of my time there in 1993. The ultimate goal is to digitize all of Walter Wellman’s Chicago Record-Herald articles related to his 1906, 1907, and 1909 expeditions, as well as representative articles and photographs from the tourist, scientist, and trapper visits to the shoreline in the century since.

  1. The Wellman Polar Airship Expeditions at Virgohamna, by P.J. Capelotti. Norsk Polarinstitutt Meddelelser No. 145 (Oslo 1997).

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