Ziegler Island - Franz-Josef-Land

General, landscape: Ziegler Island is somewhat locked in in the northern center of the Franz Josef Land archipelago and counts among its medium-sized islands (450 km²), separated from its neighbours to North, East and South only by mostly narrow sounds, which remain icecovered sometimes all year round. Its maximal length is 45 km, while the width is mostly limited. As in many places of the archipelago, the coasts rise mostly abruptly from the sea, and the shores are frequenly formed by glacier fronts. Highest elevations of the island reach up to about 550 m above sea level and most of its area is glaciated. Apart from some minor stretches of shoreline and some steep mountain slopes, there is only one larger ice-free low zone with sparse tundra vegetation, stretching across the northwest of the island, which is there only about 1 km wide.

History: The southern end of Ziegler Island was seen already by the exploratory sledge tour of the TEGETTHOFF expedition under the leadership of Julius Payer in spring 1874, who drew it approximately onto his map, but without realising that it is an island on its own. The Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition (1894-97) discovered the northernmost tip (Cape Brice). Nansen and Johansen wintered 1895/96 vis-a-vis of northern Ziegler Island on Cape Norvegia on Jackson Island. But only the Fiala Ziegler expedition (1903-05) recognized and mapped the island as an own entity, naming it after the sponsor of the expedition.
The island played no special role in the history of the archipelago, otherwise.

 

Northernmost part of the west coast.
View along the west coast to southeast.
In the north, there is a small low zone of icefree tundra stretching across the island.

In 1993-97, Ziegler Island got into international media focus - though only anonymously: in the north of the island, the Austrian broadcasting company ORF filmed major parts of its documentary and reenactment movie about the austro-hungarian discovery expedition of the TEGETTHOFF under the leadership of Weyprecht and Payer. While other parts of the film were shot elsewhere in easier-to-reach locations or in studio, partly also using a smaller scale model of the ship, a part of the scenes were shot on Ziegler Island with enormous logistics including a 1:1 copy of the TEGETTHOFF, brought together with all the other gear and team to Franz Josef Land by the nuclear icebreaker TAIMYR. The ship replica was installed on a low ridge just off the shore of Ziegler Island. An immediate removal of everything from the set just after the filming was impossible, so the ship replica and much of the other equipment stayed on site, until the clearing of the place was conducted in summer 1996 - except of those items spread already by storms, and the steel foundation of the ship replica, which was trapped meanwhile in the permafrost ground and had to remain as a lasting trace of this media project.
As this location was actually more than 100 km north of the original position of the real TEGETTHOFF, and nobody of the original expedition ever came anywhere near this film location, the name Ziegler Island was not highlighted in the marketing of that quite successful film, leaving the island more or less as unknown to the rest of the world, as before.  
Parallel to the film works, there was an attempt to establish an Austrian polar research station at the same location, taking advantage of the film logistics, and consisting of a few accomodation and working container modules. Its further use failed, however, due to the very restrictive Russian access policy for Franz Josef Land from the late 1990s onwards, which meant more or less a closure of the archipelago for western scientists. The station was then donated to Russia, but has been hardly used by Russians since, either.

Tourism: For a few years, the deserted replica of the TEGETTHOFF, though set up about 100 km off the historic location, formed a bizarre tourist attraction on northern Ziegler Island for the few who got there on expedition cruises until its partial removal in 1996.
Apart from this short period, Ziegler Island has played no significant role in the tourism history of the archipelago, even more so due to the usually difficult ice conditions in the narrow channels around much of its shores.

 

 

View across the small ice-free tundra zone in the North
The TEGETTHOFF replica on its site close to the shore of Ziegler Island, about 100 km north of the true historic location.
One of the lifeboats was rebuilt for the scenes of dragging the boats over the ice.
For a few years, the TEGETTHOFF replica was also a tourist attraction for the few who actually got there.

Last Modification: 23.04.2011