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Exhibition „Franz Josef Land: 150 years since the discovery“

The Geographical Institute, Map Collection and Geographical Library of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University, in cooperation with the Regional Museum in Teplice, are organizing the polar exhibition The Franz Josef Land: 150 years since the discovery. You are cordially welcome to visit!

Exhibition „Franz Josef Land: 150 years since the discovery“

When: 14/06/2023 – 31/01/2024

Where: Albertov 6, Prague 2, 2nd floor, the foyer in front of  the Map Collection

Opening hours: Mon–Fri: 9:00–17:00, free admission


Franz Josef Land (August 2011)


Franz Josef Land (FJ Land) is the northernmost Eurasian archipelago, which consists of 192 islands in the Arctic Ocean. At the exhibition, islands and groups of islands, their discoverers, the origin of their geographical names and basic characteristics will be presented to the Czech public for the first time.

The archipelago is 80% covered with ice and the longest period is winter. Among typical inhabitants belong ice walruses, narwhal unicorns, polar bears and arctic foxes.

Until the 17th century, the North Pole was thought of as a magnetic island, surrounded by a giant vortex and four continents. This is how the Arctic is depicted on the exhibited map of G. Mercator (1595). In the 19th century, the northern polar region was of great interest to researchers. The problem of the route of the North-West and North-Eastern Passages, as well as the position of the Arctic island groups, the question of the existence of land or sea in the area of the North Geographical Pole still remained open. Moreover, the international race to reach the North Pole by man was added to this issues.


The second Austro-Hungarian polar expedition (1872–1874), financed mainly by Count Jan Nepomuk Wilczek, was led by the German polar explorer Carl Weyprecht and the Austrian first lieutenant Julius Payer, originally from Teplice. The expedition set sail in 1872 on the sailing steamer Tegetthoff to the area north of Novaya Zemlya. Her goal was to find the Northeast Passage and reach the North Pole. However, the vessel soon froze and drifted uncontrollably. The expedition overwintered on the ship and in August 1873 found itself at a hitherto unknown territory, which was called the Fran Josef Land. Research and geodetic measurements were led here by the polar scientist J. Payer. Thanks to him, Czech toponyms are still found here today. In addition to the islands (Brosch Island, Schönau Island, Stoliczka Island), there are also the Teplitz Bay and the Brünn Cape. After the second hibernation, it was clear that the ship would not be freed, so the expedition set out on a painful journey to the south. Only in the summer of 1874 did they reach Novaya Zemlya, where they were rescued by Russian fishermen. Although the expedition did not reach its original goal, it made new ground-breaking discoveries.

Julius Payer and Carl Weyprecht

The Czech and Moravian officers, the engineer and the stoker on board the Tegetthoff cannot be neglected either. They were: lieutenant of the line ship Gustav Brož (Brosch) from Chomutov, ensign of the line ship Eduard Orel from Nový Jičín, engineer Ota Kříž from Pačlavice near Kroměříž (buried on Wilczek's island) and stoker Josef Pospíšil from Přerov.

J. Payer made the first map of the FJ Land archipelago. After his return, he published an extensive monograph with his own illustrations and maps. He left the army and devoted himself to painting. Carl Weyprecht also published memoirs and initiated the creation of international polar research.


Never go back, painted by J. Payer (1892)


Other expeditions continued to explore FJ Land, the most important of which was the expedition of Fridtjof Nansen (1893–1896) on the ship Fram with rich scientific discoveries.

Even before 1914, international interest in the FJ country as the "gateway to the north" had waned. It was clear that it was impossible to reach the North Pole by land from the islands.

In 1908–1909, the fight between two Americans for the first place in reaching the North Pole flared up. Robert E. Peary reported reaching the North Pole, and Frederick A. Cook claimed the same. Cook's primacy has been disputed, and Peary's primacy is also currently unclear.

It was only in 1926 that the Norwegian Roald E. G. Amundsen and the Italian general Umberto Nobile together with the crew members flew over the North Pole for the first time in the airship Norge. It was František Běhounek from the Czech Republic, who was the first to reach the North Pole in 1928 in the crew of the Italian airship Italia.

Cape Tegetthoff on Hall Island


The Regional Museum in Teplice and the Institute of Geophysics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic provided copies of canvases with a polar theme painted by J. Payer for the exhibition. A copy of Payer's manuscript map of the FJ Land was obtained from the Austrian National Library. Another museum in Vienna provided a photo of a model of the ship Admiral Tegetthoff. Specimens of birds living on the archipelago were provided by the Department of Zoology of the Faculty of Science, UK. The exhibition will be accompanied by documentary films, including the film Last Expedition produced by Speleo-Josef Řehák.


The opening will take place on June 13, 2023, the day when the ship Tegetthoff left the port in Bremerhaven. It will be opened by the vice-dean of the Geographical Section of the Faculty of Science, CU, doc. RNDr. Martin Ouředníček, Ph.D, polar scientist prof. Ing. Josef Elster, CSc. and PhDr. Ing. Zdeněk Lyčka, organizer of the Arctic Festival and the European exhibition about Julius Payer.


The organizers of the exhibition express special thanks for their cooperation:

Director Ing. Jana Ličková and Mgr. Eva Klášterková from the Regional Museum in Teplice, RNDr. Vladimír Vohralík, CSc. and RNDr. Irena Schneiderová, Ph.D. from the Department of Zoology of the Faculty of Science, CU, RNDr. Aleš Špičák, CSc. from the Institute of Geophysics of the Academy of Sciences, v. v. i. and PhDr. Josef Řehák from the company Speleo-Josef Řehák.


The exhibition is travelling and can be loan to other instutions.


Contact person: PhDr. Eva Novotná, Ph.D., novotn48@natur.cuni.cz, 221 951 355

Published: Jun 09, 2023 12:00 AM

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