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First Landing in Franz Joseph Land From a Non-Russian Expedition Ship Since 1928

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Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Explorer took part in making history this month when they landed at Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic, marking the first time a non-Russian expedition vessel called here since 1928.  Guests on the 148-passenger expedition ship spent five days exploring the exceedingly remote and rarely visited archipelago, visiting historic sites, with thrilling encounters with massive walrus and polar bears – one of the most exciting Arctic expeditions ever.

In stark contrast to the 1596 official discovery by Willem Barents of the Svalbard Archipelago, Franz Josef Land lay in wait for discovery for almost three more centuries. While there may have been some Norwegian hunters to the islands slightly earlier, the official discovery of Franz Josef Land on August 30, 1873 is credited to the Austro-Hungarian expedition of Julius Payer and Carl Weyprecht on the Admiral Tegetthoff. During the expedition the ship was finally locked in the ice, abandoned, and the crew was forced to drag their boats over the frozen sea to open water and eventually to rescue by Russian ships at Novaya Zemlya.

Greeted by walrus, photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins/Lindblad Expeditions

For the next half century Franz Josef Land was the site of many pioneering expeditions both to explore the area and as a launching place to try and reach the North Pole. Expeditions from Austria, Holland, Great Britain, USA, Italy, Russia, and Norway all came to this remote island archipelago, many of them utilizing the very landing at Cape Flora on Northbrook Island that Lindblad Expeditions used today.

On April 15, 1926 Russia issued a decree claiming all lands north of the Russian mainland to the North Pole to be Soviet territory. By the early 1930’s Franz Josef Land was shut off from most of the outside world and, other than a brief occupation by a German weather station during World War II, the entire archipelago has been shrouded in obscurity throughout the Cold War.

Starting in 1990, The Norwegian Polar Institute joined with Russian researchers in several joint summer projects in Franz Josef Land. Russian authorities began to open up access to more foreign scientists and eventually historians and other visitors were allowed access to this seldom-visited area.





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1 Comment to First Landing in Franz Joseph Land From a Non-Russian Expedition Ship Since 1928

  1. Mark Seidenberg

    It was on November 2, 1873 at Wilczek Island the archipelago Franz Josef Land was annexed for the Government of Austria Hungary under a sua sponte order of Lt. Julius Payer of the Austria Hungary
    Navy. By diplomatic note to the Government of the United States from the Government of Italy in 1928, notice was given that Italy was the successor sovereign to the Government of Austria Hungary over Franz Josef Land. Yet it was
    on August 16 (29) 1914, the Imperial Russian Government at “Hertha Rock” at Cape Flora, next
    to the American Coal Mine opened in 1904 (two years before Longyear
    opened his several coal mines in Spitsbergen which supplied that coal to the City of Boston prior to
    World War I) on Northbrook Island,
    declared that Austria Hungary was
    conquested by the Imperial Russian
    Navy and had a new name of
    “Romanov Land”. This at the location of an Italian Monument.

    Italy and the Soviet Union entered into no treaty related to the status of Franz Josef Land. There was also no treaty between Italy and any successor states of the Soviet Union relating to imperium over Franz Josef Land.

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