Bonus review: The Expedition – A Love Story by Bea Uusma

“Vitön lyser. Mitt ute i ishavet, trots att ingen ser det. Nu, när jag sitter i Stockholm och skriver det här, så lyser det om Vitön. Det är ingen som ser det. Men den lyser.”
~Bea Uusma, Expeditionen: Min kärlekshistoria

Plot summary

“On July 11th, 1897, three men set out in a hydrogen balloon bound for the North Pole. They never returned. Led by engineer August Soloman Andrée [sic!] these men wanted to make history, but were frighteningly underprepared and inexperienced.

Bea Uusma. Photo: Åsa Sundin / Riksantikvarieämbetet (CC BY 2.0)
Bea Uusma. Photo: Åsa Sundin / Riksantikvarieämbetet (CC BY 2.0)

Two days into their journey, they were forced to make a crash landing in a freezing, isolated tundra, and disappeared into a white nightmare.

Thirty-three years later, the men’s bodies were found perfectly preserved under the snow and ice. They had enough food, water, clothing and ammunition to survive, so why did they all die?

By retracing their steps, studying their letters and journals, and forensically examining the bodies, scientist Bea Uusma has finally uncovered the extraordinary truth behind their deaths.” More on Goodreads

On Bea Uusma

“Mari Beatrice ‘Bea’ Uusma (born 1966), previously Uusma Schyffert, is a Swedish author, illustrator and medical doctor.”

"The Eagle", shortly after landing on the ice on the 14th of July 1897. Photo: Nils Strindberg (CC BY 2.0)
“The Eagle”, shortly after landing on the ice on the 14th of July 1897. Photo: Nils Strindberg / Tekniska museet (CC BY 2.0)
Key concepts
  • The polar expedition that hit the fan
  • Tracking down a polar expedition
  • Ruthlessness of nature
Review

I selected The Expedition. A Love Story by Bea Uusma (published originally in Swedish entitled Expeditionen. Min kärlekshistoria) as THE book from the poll post from 1 November 2016. I received The Expedition as a gift from Sweden and was instantly smitten by the concept and beauty of the book. It was also good exercise to read the original Swedish version to keep up with Swedish vocabulary on medical terms and polar conditions.

The reading was made more memorable because I set out for an expedition of my own not much after I finished with the book. Although I must confess, the circumstances and weather conditions were much favorable, warmer and more humid where I landed.

Now, without further ado, let’s go straight to the bonus review. By the way, if you are planning on reading Uusma’s book, I highly recommend the hard cover version with the photos and illustrations. Without them, half of the story goes missing, so I’d invest in the whole adventure.

Book cover for Expeditionen. Min kärlekshistoria by Bea Uusma. Photo: fictivestina
Book cover for Expeditionen. Min kärlekshistoria by Bea Uusma. Photo: fictivestina

Bea Uusma’s The Expedition. A Love Story received the famous Augustpriset for Non-Fiction in 2013 and no wonder. The book is an intense and thrilling detective story like account of what happened to a polar expedition more than a century ago. The whole reading experience is pretty amazing: the book itself is a piece of art with beautiful colors and photos to illustrate the mystery behind the deaths of the three men heading for the North Pole.

I must say, though, that the book is not for the faint-hearted. If you intensely dig into the story, you might have nightmares afterwards. Uusma has the skill to keep the suspense going until the end and you vividly envision the encounter with polar bears and the unimaginable coldness the unlucky trio – S.A. Andrée, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel – experienced.

There is something intriguing and exciting about polar expeditions. It is the combination of utter madness (yeah, I guess that part is self-explanatory, since who in their right mind would set out for such expeditions without the equipment and gear we are used to) and the call for fame. After I finished with Uusma‘s thrilling book, I searched for more information on other polar expeditions as well. The race for the South Pole in early 1910’s is such a horror story, especially for dog persons and others with a consideration for the safety and well-being of various animals. Wikipedia is filled with a graphic description on what went south during the Terra Nova Expedition (officially the British Antarctic Expedition) led by Robert Falcon Scott. Well, Roald Amundsen, who made it first, had it pretty tough too during the expedition he was leading.

A side note: Nils Strindberg was related to August Strindberg (1849-1912), the famous Swedish playwright and novelist. Nils was the son of one of August’s cousins. It was Nils that recorded the expedition and many of the films were discovered and developed into photos, now available online as well (see below).

A recent publication that seems worth reading is Robert Ferguson’s Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North (2016). The book touches upon the S.A. Andrée expedition as well.

Last minute hint: In order to keep the suspense going, proceed page by page, and don’t take a sneak peek at the last pages. Otherwise you’ll spoil the fun, if the concept of “fun” can even be connected with the tragedy at hand.

S.A. Andrées polar expedition. Nils Strindberg's camera. Photo: John Hertzberg (1931) (CC BY 2.0)
S.A. Andrée polar expedition. Nils Strindberg’s camera. Photo: John Hertzberg (1931) (CC BY 2.0)

More information
– Caroline Alexander: The Race to the South Pole, published in the National Geographic in September 2011, link retrieved on 6 January 2017
– Kenneth P. Czech: Swedish-Led Artic Expedition in a Balloon Led to a Tragic End, originally published in Aviation History Magazine on 12 June 2006, link from historynet.com retrieved on 27 November 2016
– Allison Meier: Andrée Balloon Crash: A Photographic Journey through the Most Surreal Arctic Disaster, published in Atlas Obscura on 31 January 2014 (with many of Nils Strindberg’s photos), link retrieved on 27 November 2016
– Nils Strindberg: Photos from the S.A. Andrée expedition, on Flickr, link retrieved on 27 November 2016
– Reader Dad: THE EXPEDITION: A LOVE STORY by Bea Uusma, blog post published on 9 December 2014, link retrieved on 27 November 2016
– Kristina Sjögren: Bea Uusma, Expeditionen: Min kärlekshistoria (The Expedition: My Love Story), published in the Swedish Book Review 1:2014, link retrieved on 27 November 2016

Other books by Uusma
  • The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins (Astronauten som inte fick landa: om Michael Collins, Apollo 11 och 9 kilo checklistor, 1999)
Mother polar bear and cub (Ursus maritimus). Arctic Ocean, north of Western Russia (2006). Photo: Mike Dunn, NC State Museum of Natural Sciences / NOAA Climate Program Office, NABOS 2006 Expedition (CC BY 2.0)
Polar bear and cub, Arctic Ocean, north of Western Russia. Photo: Mike Dunn, NC State Museum of Natural Sciences / NOAA Climate Program Office, NABOS 2006 Expedition (CC BY 2.0)
Advertisements

Author: fictivestina

Hey, I'm a native Helsinkian but a cosmopolitan at heart :) Outdoors, reading, writing and cultural attractions are my passion. Hiking in Lapland cannot be competed with!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s