Ca. 1910. 44 loose platinum print photos, each ca. 16x21,5 cm (6 ¼ x 8 ½ in), all with period pencil numbers on versos. With the original film developers paper envelope for the photographs. A couple images mildly faded, the envelope with tears, but overall a very good collection of strong interesting images.
Interesting collection of original photographs taken by a noted French geologist Louis de Launay during his trip to Spitsbergen in 1910. Apparently drawn by the rapid development of coal and mineral mining on the main island of this Arctic archipelago in the early 1900s, de Launay took a summer cruise on board the French steamer “Ile de France” with a group of French tourists. The photographs include four group portraits of the tourists on board the steamer, a view of them being transported on shore in two pinnaces pulled by a tugboat, and three portraits of the tourists walking on shore (with one photo most likely depicting de Launay studying a piece of glacial ice). There are also several views most likely showing Longyearbyen - the only major settlement on Spitsbergen at the time, founded just four years before (1906), showing the town waterfront and whaling boats in the harbor. 31 photos taken from the sea show the panoramas of Spitzbergen’s shores, coastal mountains, fjords and glaciers. There is also a photo of a busy Norwegian harbour and waterfront, possibly in Tromso.
Louis de Launay was a professor in the Paris School of Mines for 46 years, professor of geology in the Ecole nationale de Ponts et chaussees since 1907 (now Paris Institute of Technology), editor-in-chief of the “Nature” magazine (1904-1919), a member of the Paris Academy of Sciences (since 1912), director of the Service of the Geological map of France (1930), Commander of the Legion of Honour (1935); he authored over a hundred books and articles on geology and mining.
“At the beginning of the 20th century the Industrial Revolution rolled over Europe. The newly industrialized countries demanded large amounts of raw materials and coal was especially in high demand. The prices for coal became very high and Svalbard was again like a magnet to adventurous people looking for the next huge profit. During the first few decades of the 20th century almost all available land areas were annexed for future mineral exploitation and mining. Svalbard was politically a no-man’s land and at times the occupations and land claims became quite chaotic. The coal deposits were the most interesting, but prospecting for phosphorite, gold, iron, zinc, lead, copper, gypsum, asbestos and marble also took place. In the years leading up to World War I this activity virtually exploded, creating a Klondike-like atmosphere marked by prospecting, occupations, installations and experimental operations. There was a strong optimism and belief in technical advances during these years and venture capital was readily available. <…> Grandiose, over-optimistic and based on poorly grounded assumptions, most of the schemes ended after a short trial period. In many cases, the mineral “towns” were built and the facilities were constructed but operations never actually started up. The investments were huge in the establishing phase and the transport of labour to the islands was time-consuming and difficult, while the seasons during which operations were possible were short and hectic. When the venture failed, the installations and production equipment, houses and machinery were left on site due to the high costs of disassembly and transport to the mainland. In many places around Svalbard remains from loading facilities, mining galleries, mine-cart tracks, twisted rail-lines, tractors, drilling equipment and other installations, smithies, workshops, living and dining quarters are silent witnesses to the activity that once took place here. The dreams of quick profits were broken and expectations of wealth vanished” (Svalbard’s History/ Norwegian Polar Institute. Cruise handbook for Svalbard online).
Price: $2,500.00 USD