Inuit Sled Dog International
Copyright ISDI, 1997, 2012, 2016
Preserving the pure Inuit dog
A Tragic Arctic Love Story
An Arctic Tale, discovered, researched and told by Paul Schurke

In 1897, three Swedish explorers led by Salomon Andree took off from the Arctic in a hydrogen-filled balloon named the Eagle in an attempt to fly over the North Pole. Sadly, they were never seen alive again. But the tragic story gained a romantic twist because in the months before the launch, Nils Strindberg, the team's photographer, had become involved in a tender romance with a teacher, Anna Charlier.

Their tentative courtship, whirlwind engagement and high hopes for a relationship that was never to be consummated lent a piquant edge to the tragedy. In the days before radio, the team's only means of communication were carrier pigeons. The team released 3 during the Eagle's short journey, but only one was ever found and it's attached message retrieved (which read "all's well on Day 2" ). Upon it's death, the pigeon was mounted and presented to Nil's inconsolable fiancée Anna as her only memento from her lover's ill-fated trek.

Three decades later the crew of a Norwegian ship discovered the remains of the expedition on a remote Arctic island. The bones of the explorers were recovered and Andree's diaries were found preserved, along with Nil's rolls of film. The diaries and resulting photos revealed that the Eagle, outfitted for a month-long flight, had crash-landed after only 3 days. The crew had struggled across the ice for months, dragging salvaged food and supplies behind them. They finally made landfall on an uninhabited island in October and crafted a primitive rock shelter in hopes of surviving the Arctic winter. But they all died just days later, apparently of food poisoning.

In 1930 their remains were brought home to Sweden for a huge state funeral presided over by the king that was said to be "the most solemn episode of national mourning that has ever occurred in Sweden." But most touching of all was the gesture by Gilbert Hawtrey, an American school teacher. Nil's fiancée Anna had married Hawtrey years after the expedition when she realized all hope of Nil's return was gone.

She had accompanied Hawtrey to the U.S. and taught music at his school. The stuffed pigeon from Andree's balloon resided on her piano as her sole connection with Nils. Sadly, she died before the discovery of the team's remains. But Hawtrey was still living then and, upon hearing the news, he responded to a solemn promise he'd made to Anna.

Just before she died, he'd told her that should Nils' body ever be found, he'd have Anna's body exhumed and her heart removed so he could send it to Sweden to be buried with her first love. And at that state funeral, Anna's heart was indeed placed in the casket with Nils.

We can't promise that an arctic experience will bring you romance, but it always offers lots of adventure. We've shared the Arctic with hundreds of people on our dozens of arctic adventures tours over the past 30 years. These include dogsled expeditions across Norway's beautiful Svalbard Island, site of the fateful balloon expedition.

Crashed balloon