Polar Record


A preliminary archaeological survey of Camp Wellman at Virgohamn, Danskøya, Svalbard

P.J. Capelottia1

a1 Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA


Between 1894 and 1909, Walter Wellman (1858–1934), a Chicago-based journalist and explorer, organized and led five expeditions to reach the North Pole. Wellman launched his most ambitious undertaking in 1906, constructing an extensive base camp complete with an airship hangar on the shoreline of Virgohamn, a small harbor on Danskøya in the Svalbard archipelago. In 1907 and 1909, Wellman's two flights in the dirigible airship America marked the first time a motorized airship had flown in the Arctic. In the summer of 1993, the author surveyed and mapped the extent of the remains of Wellman's camp to discover and document any surviving wreckage of America, and to observe the impact of tourist traffic on the site. This paper describes the 1993 survey of Wellman's base camp at Virgohamn and offers suggestions for its preservation.

(Received April 1994)