Karesuando is situated in the north of Sweden about 250 km
north of the Arctic circle (latitude N 68o 26', longitude E 22o
27') and is the most northern church village in Sweden. Two Englishmen,
the Cambridge student Edward Clarke and a wealthy person, Cripps,
travelled in the northern Sweden in the summer of 1799 and visited this
place. Clarke led the expedition and Cripps paid for it. Clarke had used
much of his time in Cambridge to make experiments of different kinds.
Among other things he had experimented with kites and balloons.
After spending some time in more southern parts of Sweden, they sat the
course towards mosquitoes and midnight sun. In Luleć they met the first
lap. They continued to Torneć at the River Torne Älv, a river that
nowadays is the border between Sweden and Finland. In 1799, Finland was
still a part of the country of Sweden. Sweden lost it ten years later to
Russia in the last big war Sweden was involved in.
From Torneć they continued north by boat on the rivers Torne Älv and
Muonio Älv. It was a hard job for the boatmen. They had to pass 107 rapids
upwards before they reached Enontekis, the ptrsent name Karesuando.
At the jetty at Karesuando they were met by the vicar, Erik Grape. The
vicar and his family showed their English guests a great hospitality.
Clarke had bought material for a hot air balloon in Torneć and now he
wanted to revive his old proficiency.
Grape became enthusiastic and let the men use the church to build the
balloon. He also called all the people in his parish to service. When the
great day came, he first held the service where he, to the astonishment of
the Englishmen, preached for 80 minutes with a very strong voice. They did
not know that the laps demanded this of all their clergymen. Very long
preachings in a strong voice.
The balloon was heated with cotton soaked in spirit. The first try to
launch the balloon failed because of strong winds. But the people stayed
until the evening and now Clarke made a new and successful try. The sun
shines all day and night in the summer, so everybody could see how the
balloon rose against the sun even if was late in the evening. Many in the
audience became afraid, but were soon calmed down.
Was this possibly the first balloon flying north of the Arctic circle? Yes,
I really believe so,