ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

French balloonists will search for gold and Andree, 1898

Dr. Antony Varicle

The Evening Times (Washington, D.C.), Monday, April 4, 1898

Headline: BOUND FOR KLONDIKE. French Balloonists Will Search for Gold and Audree.

    New York, April 4. - From Paris there arrived yesterday a most wonderful balloon, in charge of a party of scientists sent out by the French Geographical Society.

    With it the gold fields of Alaska are to be inspected, mapped and studied, and Andree is to be searched for. It is also the intention to hunt up and locate the North Pole.

    The head of the expedition is Antony Varicle, a member of the Geographical Society, and the founder of the French Electrical Engineers' Society. He has taken up aeronautics only within the last two years, but he has made the most successful air voyage on record.

    Accompanying him are Dr. Arthur Terwagne, secretary of ihe expedition; M. Ferret, geologist; Leon Bureau, civil engineer and mining expert; Henry Bouillier, aeronaut; M. Richard and M. Magnier, carpenters. Mrs. Bouillier is also here, but will not go on the balloon voyage.

    The balloon, packed in twelve large cases, came over with them on La Bretagne, and M. Varicle did not leave the ship for the Hotel Martin until he had satisfied himself that it had not been injured. The party will today buy twenty tons of iron filings, besides ascertaining whether the customs authorities will let their belongings go through to Juneau free of duty. If Collector Bidwell decides adversely, the balloon will be taken in bond through to Glenora, B.C.

    M. Varicle and his companions told all about the great balloon, Dr. Terwagne acting as spokesman.

    "Please understand," said he, "that this is neither a relief expedition nor a moneymaking scheme. It is a scientific expedition, sent out by the French government. We are to study the geographical, geological, topographical, meteorological and aerostatic conditions of Alaska, from Juneau to the Klondike, and we shall also recommend a route for a railway.

    "We hope to start making the hydrogen for our balloon in Juneau by May 1. It takes four days to generate the 3,000 cuble meters of gas for the balloon, and that done we shall start off. Only four of us will go on the trip - MM. Varicle, Ferret, Bureau and myself.

    "We can give no idea of the length of the trip, for we have new conditions to meet and study, but I am sure that we will succeed. It now takes two weeks for a quick trip across Chilkoot pass to Dawson City. We ought to do this in side of two days. We will not take any relief supplies with us, but, of course, if we found any need we should come back and get some.

    "After we have finished our work we shall make a trip in search of our very good friend Andree. We do not believe that he is dead. We think he is stranded in some little Siberian village."

    Dr. Terwagne then explained the workings of the balloon. It has not the familiar top shape. It looks more like a great sausage lying on its side. Just beneath the balloon, running its full length, is a wooden boom, on which is swung the car. The car can by means of guide ropes be hauled along the boom to either end of the balloon when it is necessary to "trim ship."

    Extending from the car to the balloon is a large square sail that can be spread in any direction. In the center of the car is the frame of a triplet bicycle, the power from which goes to either a fan at the stern for propulsion or one underneath for ascension. Under the car are runners, and it may be used as a sled. Iron scoops attached to ropes will hang from the boom. These scoops will be fitted with snow, ice or earth as ballast, to enable the aeronauts to keep about seventy-five feet from the ground.

    With sail and fans Mr. Varicle can beat against the wind just as a ship tacks. He claims that not a particle of gas can escape, and is certain that he can stay afloat in the air for at least a week. He recently spent thirty-four hours above the earth with this balloon, and on January 24, of this year, flew from Paris to Hamburg in twenty-four hours, just the time it took him to get back by train.