Maaretta Jaukkuri Foundation

The buoy is waterborne

Axel Straschnoy released a buoy into the waters off the coast of Kvalnes for the project "Float"

While staying at MJF, Axel Straschnoy released a buoy into the ocean in honour of S. A. André, hoping that the current will carry it to the North Pole, Andrés unattained destination.


In 1987, S. A. André set out with his crew to reach the North Pole on an aerostatic hydrogen balloon. After travelling a few hundred kilometres they were forced to land on the ice and died on their way back to civilisation. Still, Andrée is one of Sweden explorer-heroes and a museum in his honour was built in his birthplace, Gränna.


Andrée’s expedition marked a change in scientific exploration. Before, these were led by explorers: tough men who were ready to brave the elements and put their lives at risk in direct contact with an overbearing nature. Andrée replaced demonstrations of manliness by technical solutions, eschewing standing on the pole all together by simply dropping a buoy from his hydrogen balloon. His expedition marked the first step towards the space probe, a machine that travels through space in the stead of humans. His other breakthrough innovation was a control system for hydrostatic balloons, an inherently uncontrollable transport method. This tension, between control and lack thereof, recurs throughout the expedition plans. At the same time as he created a very detailed plan, he willfully ignored the fact that he had no reliable information on the winds in the area around the pole. While he checked his gear thoroughly, he did not ever test it and never did the three explorers fly together on a balloon before they took off from Svalbard.

Even if Andrée had achieved his objective and arrived at the North Pole, the buoy he meant to drop there would only have stayed fixed in place in respect to the floating ice. In practice, it would have left the area immediately, moving around like the buoys he dropped en route, like his balloon, without much control. Marking the North Pole was more about the act than about any permanent record of their achievement.


For Float, Straschnoy launched the buoy in honour of Andrée and his expedition. He dropped the buoy off the Lofoten islands, into the Norwegian current, which carries water along the west coast of Norway, towards Svalbard. Some part of this current continues towards the Arctic. Thus, a buoy let loose into it has some chance to make it to the Arctic. Once there, there is a non-zero chance of it getting frozen-in in the Arctic ice. Once part of the Arctic ice, there is a non-zero chance it will one day be over the North Pole. The possibilities are slim, yes, but so were Andrée’s.


Float is made in collaboration with Nya Småland for the Polarcentrum, as an exhibition and intervention into its collection.