Wilczek Island (not to be mixed up with much bigger Wilczek Land) is situated in the very south of the archipelagoliegt an der Südseite des Archipels. It is a low island, dominated by plateaus, with several branches, maximal extension about 10 km. Abotu half of the interior is covered by two adjascent icecaps, which include also the highest elevations (about 160 m above sea level). Much of the ice-free surface consists of magmatic rocks and scree, and the erosion resistance of this hard type of stones is also responsible of the often steep coastal cliffs. The southeastern part of the island with Cape Orgel is mostly flat on top, about 40 m above sea level, and the scenery on western Cape Schilling is similar.
South of Wilczek Island, the expedition ship TEGETTHOFF, trapped in an ice field since August 1872, came to a final halt, when the ice masses finally froze together in late 1873, connecting the ship to the island. From here, the land parties of the TEGETTHOFF explored first Wilczek Island and its neighbouring islands, and then on 3 longer sledge excursions more remote parts of the unknown archipelago all the way up to Rudolf Island.
The good organisation of the expedition is reflected also in the fact, that, inspite of the involuntary long prisonship in the ice, the whole expedition had only one death case: engineer Otto Krisch, who died of an internal disease and who was buried on the southern cliffs of Wilczek Island. His grave is still on the site, see also the inscription on it further down on this page.
A message in a bottle, placed by the TEGETTHOFF expedition in a cairn on Wilczek Island, was found by the 1991 DAGMAR AAEN expedition of the German adventurer Arved Fuchs. The paper is now in the German Naval Museum in Bremerhaven.
Apart from its role as the nearest land for the discovery expedition by the TEGETTHOFF under Weyprecht and Payer, Wilczek Island had no particular further role in the history of the archipelago.
Names: Being the first island to set foot on in the newly discovered archipelago, leader Carl Weyprecht of the TEGETTHOFF expedition named the island after Count Johann Nepomuk Wilczek, the main sponsor and promotor of the expedition. Cape Orgel in the south refers to the basaltic stone columns resembling remotely an organ (German: Orgel). Cape Schilling is named after the Russian geographer Nikolai Baron von Schilling.
See also: Travel
The grave of Otto Krisch is among the places in Franz-Josef-Land, which are visited occasionally by touristic expeditions, especially by cruises having a helicopter to their disposal for the land transfers. The approach by boat is more problematic - not only because of eventual driftice and swell on the beach, but also because the cliff has to be climbed up to the plateau through a fairly steep snow ravine, which may exceed the abilities of a number of tour participants. As the grave is situated pittoresquely on a small rock promontory, only a few persons can be close to it at a time - this should be considered in time calculation for an excursion to this site.