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Scarce map of the Franz Josef Land, illustratiing the Julius Payer Expedition of 1873 and 1874.

Franz Josef Land, is an archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean north of Novaya Zemlya and east of Svalbard, The archipelago was possibly first discovered by the Norwegian sealers Nils Fredrik Rønnbeck and Aidijärvi aboard the schooner Spidsbergen in 1865 who, according to scarce reports, sailed eastward from Svalbard until they reached a new land, denoted Nordøst-Spitsbergen (Spitsbergen was the contemporary name of Svalbard). It is not known if they went ashore, and the new islands were soon forgotten.

The officially recognized discovery took place in 1873 by the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition led by polar explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht. They named the archipelago in honour of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I. Since the expedition was privately sponsored and not official, these islands have not been part of Austria.