English Title: The Metamorphosis of Polar Ice. The Austro-Hungarian Polar Expedition of 1872-1874)

The Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition was an expedition that ran from 1872-74 and discovered Franz-Josef Land. According to Julius von Payer, one of the leaders, its purpose was to find the north-east passage. It actually explored the area northwest of Novaya Zemlya. According to the other leader, Karl Weyprecht, the North Pole was a secondary target. The estimated total costs of 175,000 florins were financed by Austro-Hungarian nobles. The two main financial contributors were Count Johann Nepomuk Wilczek (1837-1922) and Hungarian Count Odon Zichy (1811-1894)

The main ship was the Tegetthoff, named for the Austrian Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, under whom Weyprecht served. The ship was built by Teklenborg & Beurmann in Bremerhaven. It was a three-masted schooner of 220 tons, 38.34 m long, with a 100 horsepower (75 kW) steam engine. The crew came from all over Austria-Hungary, especially (12 of them were Croats) from Istria and Dalmatia.

The Tegetthoff with her crew of 24 left Tromsø, Norway in July 1872. At the end of August she got locked in pack ice north of Novaya Zemlya and drifted to hitherto unknown polar regions. While drifting, the explorers discovered an archipelago which they named Franz-Josef Land after Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I. Payer led several sledge expeditions to explore the new-discovered lands, on one of them reaching 81° 50' North.

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In May 1874 boat captain Weyprecht decided to abandon the ice-locked ship and try to return by sledges and boats. On 14 August 1874 the expedition reached the open sea and later Novaya Zemlya where they were rescued by a Russian fishing vessel. On 3 September they reached Vardø in Finnmark, Northern Norway.

The expedition returned to Austria by coastal steamer from Vardø and by train from Hamburg. On the journey they were met by crowds and invited to dinners hosted by local dignitaries and geographical societies in Norway, Sweden and Germany. They entered Vienna in triumph, welcomed, according to contemporary newspaper reports, by hundreds of thousands of people.

Further festivities followed throughout Austro-Hungary as the individual explorers returned to their homes.

The expedition's discoveries and experiences made a significant contribution to polar science, especially the discovery of the Northeast passage by Adolf Erik Nordenskiold. They also gave an impetus to International Polar Years, meaning a shift from sports-like races of single expeditions to worldwide scientific cooperation in exploring the polar regions.

The expedition yielded various results in the fields of meteorology, astronomy, geodesy, magnetism, zoology, and sightings of Aurora Borealis. They were published by the Academy of Sciences in 1878. There is a book (The Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition 1872-74) and paintings by Payer - probably the only paintings of a polar expedition created by the explorer himself.


The Austrian arctic expedition", in The Times 24 September 1874 p3.

Publisher: Wien




British Library


ISBN-10: N/A

Date Added: 2019-06-18

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Map Name
Oesterr.-Ungar. Arktische Expedition  - Uebersichts Karte des Arctischen Gebietes Gezeichnet von Karl Weyprecht (1879)

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