VLADIMIR  VOJIR                       





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treatment for TV documentary series: 20 x 26 min.


co-production: Czech Television (CZ) - Optomen Television (UK) - CBS (CA) - White Pine Productions Ltd. (CA)

© Vladimir Vojir 1999 - 2000 (not been realised)

(1894 - 1909)


Spitsbergen: Danskoya - Virgo Bay
Russian Arctic: Franz Josef Land - Cape Flora - Jackson Island
Americans, Norwegians, Russian)

Walter Wellman - the American journalist tenaciously attempted for 15 years to realise something what he considered to be the best adventure - to reach the North Pole. He began with the obvious way of expeditions  with the help of sledges and dogs. In 1894 he lent a Norwegian ship and searched Spitsbergen. He had his base on the Danish island, from where he set out on the north, accompanied by several men. But very soon he received the message that his ship had been crushed by iceberg. Wellman came back and found just a pile of wrecks. Nevertheless he was not put off and aimed at The North Pole again.

Walter Wellman
(1858 - 1934)

But after his 13-day-trekking on floes he had much terrible experience and he decided to return on Danish island and embark a rescue steamship. In 1897 the Andree‘s balloon expedition aiming to the North Pole disappeared. One year later in 1898 W. Wellman on the board of a Norwegian ship Fridtjof set out on the voyage to Franz Josef Land. He wanted to find any evidence of Andrée who had been missing.


On the Hall Island people, dogs, sledges and food were disembarked. The ship Fridtjof returned for winter to Norway.

Wellman’s next expedition to the North Pole went on foot. During the first march Wellman set up food store and a chalet in the Fort Mc Kinley and left here two experienced Norwegians. The other once wintered in the Jackson’s cottage. One of the Norwegians died and his dead body lay frozen together with a bag in one piece of ice just behind the other Norwegian during the whole polar night. They both were found by Wellman in spring and after their burial he set out on the North Pole again. Unfortunately he broke his leg and he had to be transported to the cape Tegetthoff. Even that he discovered several islands  he returned in 1899 on the board of the rescue ship Capella. For several years Wellman had been recovering from his injuries form the previous expedition.

Then in 1904 he attempted to reach the Pole in another way by airship. The base is again on the Danish Island (Spitsbergen) but the building of a hangar retarded and technical examination of the airship was horrible. That was the reason why the flight was not realised.

the airship was amended and named America and in 1907 Wellman came back to Danish Island.

airship America

But because of bad weather the flight to the Pole was put off. Wellman decided to fly in September but it was not safely due to the polar night. It was the first flight by airship in the Arctic. But the wind was unfavourable and there was icing on the airship. The airship had to lend on the floe after two and half hours of flight. The Russian aristocrat Popov financially supported the last Wellman’s attempt in 1909. (Popov committed suicide after the Russian revolution in October 1917). As the steamship Fridtjof had sunk, Wellman lent another one called Arctic. After winter gale it was necessary to repair the hangar for air-ship on the Danish island.

The airship America took off in August 1909 with a crew of four. There had been a hard rope for stabilisation on the airship but after several strokes the rope cracked and the airship shot up. Wellman was not nervous but his brother- in- law being in panic opened gas safety valves and the airship broke down and crashed into icy floe. Not far from that place was Norwegian guard ship Farm that could help them. They put the airship on a beach and the crew got off. Unexpected windstorm tore off the cover that shot up. In the high of 2000 meters the airship exploded. Thousands of birds were silent immediately...

After return to Norway Wellman got to know that Cook had reached The North Pole, and so he gave up other attempts. Next few days the weather was fine and so it was possible that the airship America could reach The North Pole but not with Wellman’s brother - in - law. But the question is if it could manage to get back....


  • Capelotti, P.J.: The Wellman polar airship expeditions at  Virgohamna, Danskoya, Spitsbergen (Oslo 1997)

  • Capelotti, P.J.: By Airship to the North Pole: An Archaeology of Human Exploration (Rutgers University Press, 1999)

  • Capelotti, P.J.: A Conceptual Model for Aerospace Archaeology: A Case Study from the Wellman Site, Virgohamna, Danskřya, Svalbard. (Ph.D. Dissertation, Rutgers University, (1996)

  • Capelotti, P.J.: “A Preliminary Archćological Survey of Camp Wellman at Virgohamna, Danskřya, Svalbard,” Polar Record 30 (175). (1994)

  • Mabley Edward: The motor balloon America

  • Wellman Walter: The Aerial Age (1911)

  • Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo

  • Norsk Polarinstitutt, Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen

Walter Wellman
(1858 - 1934)

hangár pro vzducholoď na Špicberkách

manželky Wellmana a Vanimana

na špicberské základně

hangár pro vzducholoď na Špicberkách

přístroj na výrobu vodíku

hangár v přístavu Virgohamna

přístroj na výrobu vodíku

Wellman na palubě vzducholodi

Wellman a jeho vzducholoď

Wellman v kabině vzucholodi (1906)

posádka vzducholodi America (1907)

přístav Virgohamna v době příprav (1909)

posádka vzducholodi před svým druhým
pokusem doletět k severnímu pólu (1909)

part of car and one of the motors (1909)

America ready to leave Baloon House (1909)

Wellmanova základna na Špicberkách(1910)

Prague, 1999 - 2000

translation: Dr. Pavel Kriz

© Vladimir Vojir 1999 - 2000