To the Edge of the World

A nonfiction book in the field of history –  a journey through space, time, and the mystical landscapes of the High North. (Please note that it will be published in German!)

In the summer of 1896, a small steamer is heading from Hamburg to the edge of the known world: Spitsbergen. 45 men and 7 women are aboard the ship. They belong to the first polar tourists in history. Among them is Hans Beat Wieland, a young Swiss artist who doesn’t quite fit in with the illustrious party. He doesn’t care much about champagne, tail coats, and fancy dresses. Instead, his interest lies more in the unspoiled mountain landscape in which he sees many parallels to his home country, and which he wants to explore through hiking, painting, and writing.

120 years later I come across Wieland’s Arctic memorabilia: diaries, photos, sketches…

These wonderful pieces of history and the stories linked to them deserve a wider audience. Especially now that we have become aware of the impermanence of the 'permanent ice' and as trips to the polar regions are, somewhat paradoxically, experiencing a boom. Past, present, and future are intertwined – and we are, too.

My book is an unusual nonfiction book of cultural und social history: a dialogue between science, adventure, and art – thoroughly researched, written in a vivid language, and with a creative design. (Please note that it will be published in German!)

Following the cruise of 1896 and addressing its relevant topics, I would like to invite you to browse and discover. The journey starts in the here-and-now and takes you back to the Belle Époque when alpinism and (Arctic) tourism were young and wild and when blank spots on the map gave rise to great (hi)stories.

There will be two ways to look at the book: Besides the text, the layout will be of great importance. It plays with the historical materials, allowing to experience the journey on a visual level, too. I am very happy that graphic designer Kaj Lehmann («Im Hölloch», awarded in the competition «The Most Beautiful Swiss Books of 2015») has joined me for this adventure.

Nowadays, Hans Beat Wieland’s voyage is a standard in every travel brochure featuring cruises in Norway and the polar regions. It is a struck of luck that historical sources for the visionary enterprise of 1896 still exist. They allow a glimpse into a fascinating period, which was characterized by innovations and contradictions likewise and still has an impact on today.

Apart from travel guides and classic adventure stories, there are hardly any books in the German-speaking world that deal with the high-Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen and its unique tourism history – even though a strikingly high proportion of the 50’000 annual visitors today come from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. My publication intends to fill this gap.

I wish this book to go beyond the community of 'polar fans', for its core themes – travel, discovery, nature – are universal. 

As a historian, my motivation is to keep history alive, to awaken interest and arouse curiosity as to what stories artefacts tell us, to relate people’s personal here-and-now to the past.

FOREWORD

PART 1

The Duffle Bag

PART 2

Cast off!
A Homeland Far From Home
It Stinks to High Heaven
Non-Stop to 90° North?
A White Strip on the Horizon
The Fairyland
Turning the Hands of Time
Hilsen fra Spitsbergen
Herr Leutnant, nicht so tief
In the Shadow of the Moon
Alongside

PART 3

Hans Beat Wieland – Painter of His Time
Wilhelm Bade – Father of Polar Tourism
Salomon A. Andrée – Engineer in Overflight
SS Erling Jarl – Ice Princess
Spitsbergen – Land of Cold Coasts

APPENDIX

Notes
Bibliography
Index

  • Nonfiction book in the fields of polar exploration and tourism history
  • Vividly written, addressed to a broad readership
  • Playful in its typography and layout; allows for both a text-focused and an image-focused reading, inviting discovery at both levels
  • Scheduled for publication in German by the renowned Swiss publisher NZZ Libro in fall 2018
  • Approx. 200 pages, numerous color illustrations
  • Universal topics: travel, discovery, nature
  • → Thoroughly researched
  • Takes readers back to the past, but also creates numerous links to the present
  • Geographical focus: Switzerland / Germany / Spitsbergen / Norway / Sweden
  • Starting points for follow-up projects (e.g. exhibition, presentations)

In July 1896, the steamboat «Erling Jarl» sets sail from Hamburg, bound for Spitsbergen. This is one of the first cruises to the high Arctic archipelago. The tour is guided by the resourceful polar hero Wilhelm Bade from Northern Germany, whose aim is to offer more than just the 'sights and people' to his illustrious party consisting of 45 men and 7 women. They are to observe a full solar eclipse in Northern Norway and to witness the launch of what is possibly the 19th century’s most daring expedition: From the edge of the known world, Swedish explorer Salomon August Andrée wants to reach the as yet unexplored North Pole – in a gas balloon!

Young Hans Beat Wieland from Switzerland is aboard the «Erling Jarl» as an illustrator, commissioned by a newspaper to document the unique events. His recently (re)discovered travel journal is highly illuminating with regard to the history of polar exploration and tourism, while also giving insight into the astute and at times entertaining thoughts of a 'mountain dweller' and passionate alpinist, who was far ahead of his time. The people and especially the landscapes of the High North, which he frequently compares with his home country, make a deep impression on his soul. With his documentary sketches, watercolors, and oil paintings, Wieland creates the first significant group of works depicting Spitsbergen. A few years later, he becomes highly popular across Central Europe as a painter of the Alps. 

Today, Spitsbergen counts more than 50,000 visitors every year. The short summer of 1896 not only marked the birth of this booming tourism industry, it also assembled a who's who of polar research in this – at the time unpopulated – no-man's-land at almost 80° North. The book will present two key figures: It draws special attention to Wilhelm Bade, tracing his path from being a celebrated survivor of the «German North Polar Expedition» of 1869/70 to becoming the father of Nordic and polar tourism. Furthermore, it examines Salomon A. Andrée and the hitherto neglected first phase of his legendary balloon expedition.