Umberto Nobile

Umberto Nobile

 

The conquest of the North Pole performed by Umberto Nobile is a milestone in the history of Arctic exploration.
Born January 21, 1885 at Lauro in the Irpinia region, after earning a degree in engineering he became Director of the Stabilimento Militare di Costruzione Aeronautiche of Rome and  reached the rank of General. His interest in the construction of airships led him to design and refine new models, semi rigid and more reliable than those of the time. His fame crossed the borders of Europe, so that on May 10, 1926, along with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, aboard the airship “Norge”, N-1 completely designed by him, he left Ciampino towards the Arctic. They flew to the North Pole and landed in Alaska. A well-traversed 5,300 km non-stop. On April 15, 1928 he attempted again a flight  to the North Pole as commander of the airship “Italia”. The expedition also involved a group of Alpini led by Captain Gennaro Sora, who subsequently take part in the rescue operations after the disaster of the airship in the return flight.
Umberto Nobile with the airship “Italia” left Milan for Svalbard, where the base was built. On 23 May 1928, the airship left Ny Alesund and at 00:24 hours of May 24, 1928 reached the North Pole. The landing was not carried out due to adverse weather conditions, but when above the 90th parallel the Italian flag and a cross blessed by Pope Pius XI were launched.
On the way home, with the mountains of Svalbard at the horizon, the airship crashed on the pack ice. Ten men, including Nobile with his inseparable dog Titina were left on the ice while the airship takes with it the other six crew members destined to disappear forever. The survivors were surrounded by materials such as a radio, food and a small tent. The tent was then painted red to facilitate the sighting of the rescuers and entered into legend as “The Red Tent.”
Nobile was rescued by the Swedish pilot Lundborg by a small plane and against his will. Other crew members were rescued later by the icebreaker Krasin on July 12, 1928 after seven weeks on the pack.
Because of the political disputes that followed the rescue Nobile first moved to Russia where designed the airship USSR W6, then went to America where his ability as designer was highly recognized and appreciated.
He returned to Italy in 1943 where his figure was rehabilitated and on 27 December 1966 was honored with the title of Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.
He died in Rome on 30 July 1978.

BIOGRAPHY curated by Bruno Bocchi

 

S.A.R. Lugi Amedeo di Savoia – Aosta – Duke of Abruzzi

S.A.R. Lugi Amedeo di Savoia – Aosta – Duke of Abruzzi

 

Known as the “Duke of the Abruzzi” was born in Madrid in 1873 where his father was King of Spain for some years, while his uncle was King of Italy. With a great passion for the mountain, very young climbed the Mont Blanc (the Giant’s Tooth) and later the Mount St. Elias in Alaska. Between the two ascensions, made the first circumnavigation of the globe at the age of 21.
In 1899 on board a whaling ship renamed “Stella Polare”, sailed to reach the North Pole. The plan was to sail to Franz Josef Land and reach the northernmost island of the archipelago, Prince Rudolf, and then from there, using the sled dogs travel all the way to the 90th parallel. The expedition, as usual for the Duke, was prepared with great care and a wealth of material. Not only, some expert Norwegians, like Captain Evenson with a great skill of navigation in the ice, were asked to join the Italian expedition.
The Stella Polare reached Prince Rudolph Island and anchored in the Bay of Teplitz at 82 ° 4 ‘N. It was the fourth ship able to reach this latitude and the first sailing along the coast.
The expedition spent the winter there at the base camp. On February 19, formed three groups, traveled to the North Pole. One party never returned to the base, another was miraculously able to return while the one led by Umberto Cagni, reached the highest latitude ever reached until then 86 ° 34 ‘N, but not the Pole. The Duke was unable to join this final attempt due to frost bite, he had few fingers amputated.
The expeditions not only reached the northernmost latitude, the scientific and topographic material reported were a great achievement as well.
The “Duke” returned to his country and prepared a new expedition, this time to Africa, to the Mount Ruwenzori. In 1906 he was the first able to climb this 5,109 meters high mountain. Then was the time of an expedition in the Karakorum with the intention of climbing the K2, he reached 6,640 meters of altitude and can’t go further. But still managed to beat the record of climbing, reaching 7,750 meters in the exploration of the surrounding peaks. In 1921 he moved to Somalia where he created a plantation and explored the Uebi Shabelle River to its source. He died in Africa on his estate called “Villabruzzi” in 1933.

BIOGRAPHY curated by Bruno Bocchi

 

Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen

 

Roald Amundsen, was born on 16 July 1872 at Borge, near Oslo. According to his family expectations he should dedicate himself to the medical studies, but he joined the Navy and the case brought him, as second in command, on board the “Belgica”, together with the Belgian biologist Adrien de Gerlache, forced by the ice to spend the winter on the ship at the Antarctic Peninsula.
The experience that Amundsen got from this trip, allowed him to acquire a sufficient self-confidence to face the challenge that fascinated all sailers since 300 years: the North West Passage. The explorers were aware of the existence of a corridor linking Europe to Asia, north of the North American continent, but any ship was ever able to completely sail it. Amundsen bought a very robust ship weighting 45 tonnes, the Gjoa, with sails and an engine of 13 horses. In 1903 the “Gjoa” left the fjord of Oslo with its crew of 6 men ready to open the icy waters of the North West Passage.
The expedition was successful and in August 1906 “Gjoa” sailed out of the passage. During the navigation the crew had also collected a large amount of scientific data, the most important of which were related to the terrestrial magnetism and also recorded the location of the magnetic North Pole. In addition, this expedition had collected ethnographic material about the Inuit.
In August Amundsen sailed south on board the “Fram”, which Nansen had made available. At that time in order to cross the Bering Strait the ships were forced to double Cape Horn. That is why nobody suspected any change of plan while the “Fram” proceeded south.
When the ship was docking at Madeira, Amundsen informed the members of the expedition that they were sailing southward, not northward. A telegram was sent to Scott with the news that the Norwegian expedition was heading for the Antarctic. A race to the death that continues to fascinate today.
Amundsen placed his base camp in the Bay of Whales, this location is closer to the South Pole than the departure point of Scott, the McMurdo Sound. Despite this apparent advantage the area between the Bay of Whales and the Pole was unknown, while Scott would follow a route mapped out in 1908 by his compatriot Shackleton. On 19 October 1911 Amundsen left the base camp with his four companions, four sledges and 52 dogs. The mission of Amundsen had one goal: reach the Pole, as fast as possible. Two months after his goal was reached, five weeks before Scott and his men reached the Pole exhausted to find the flag and tent of Amundsen.
On 14 December 1911 the Norwegian flag waved at the South Pole. The Norwegian crew had crossed the dangerous Ross ice shelf to reach the foot of a mountain range covered by glaciers. Continue seemed extremely risky, but because of their expertise and a good dose of luck, the men managed to overcome the glacier Heiberg, to cross the mountain range and reach the plateau that would have brought them to the Pole.
Upon his return to Europe, Amundsen, paid all its debts and soon organized new voyages.
From 1922 to 1924 drifted with the ship “Maud” the North East Passage.
Later in 1925, along with the American Ellesworth, tryed to reach the North Pole aboard two aircraft, the N24 and the N25. The planes crashed on the ice at latitude 87.83 degrees N, but the crew managed to repair one of the two planes and three weeks after they returned to Svalbard.
In 1926, along with Nobile and Ellsworth fly over the North Pole with the airship “Norge” flying from Svalbard to Alaska. This expedition flew over unknown territories, thus collecting the last information that were missing to complete the world map. After the trip with the airship Norge, the two explorers not turn over the floor, but when Nobile, after reaching the North Pole, crashed on the pack with the airship Italy, Roald Amundsen immediately offer his help as part of a rescue team. He took off from Tromsø on June 17 1928 on board the Latham 47, a plane made available by the French Government. Together with him were missing all the crew members. A few months later was found a wreck of his airplane on the north coast of northern Norway. More recently, in 2003, another part of the aircraft was found in a hut on the Island Edgeøya, Svalbard.

BIOGRAPHY curated by Piero Bosco

 

Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen

 

He was born and raised on the outskirts of Christiania, the modern Oslo. His childhood was not too difficult because his family was wealthy but he received a simple education and learned important values such as integrity, independence and courage.
Nansen in 1880 entered the University of Christiania in order to study zoology.
During the spring and summer of 1882, while still at university, took part in an expedition to Jan Mayen Islands on board the Viking, a sealer boat, a trip that had a great influence on his future career. This was his first experience of the Arctic, and was immediately captured by the solitude and silence, by the wilderness and its majestic beauty. However, for some time he turned its attention to the study up to graduate in 1888.
Already the year after his expedition to Jan Mayen, Nansen began to prepare plans for a journey across Greenland, at that time the interior was completely unexplored. His intention was to cross the ice cap from east to west, very curious choice start from the uninhabited east coast and march toward the inhabited west coast. In fact Nansen decided to cut any possible way back, this was characteristic of all his future expeditions. His plan was described as a madness from the experts. Nobody believed that some skiers without the help of dogs and sleds, could cross the inland ice. But he had already took his decision. Nansen and his companions were landed near the Sermilik Fjord and could begin the ascent of the ice cap only on August 15, when the brief Arctic summer was now at the end. In early October the party reached Godthaab, a small settlement on the west coast where they spent the winter. The expedition has made a decisive contribution to the knowledge of the Greenland.
But Nansen had already been thinking about a new expedition. Since 1884 he had read by the Jeanette that sank off the New Siberian Islands and the remains were recovered in southern Greenland. A fact that indicated the existence of an ocean current towards the west. Nansen got the idea of reaching on board a vessel the easternmost point possible off the coast of Siberia, than trap the boat in the ice and hope that the current move to the North Pole or at least at a point close to it. For the purpose it was built the Fram, the ship thanks to its special hull was able to resist a big ice pressure. The expedition began in the summer of 1893, and in September the vessel was trapped in the ice and began its drift that led it to the west but not enough to the north. Nansen, decided to leave the ship, together with Hjalmar Johansen, and try to reach the pole marching on the pack, using skis, dog sled and kayak. After an incredible journey they reached the latitude of 86 ° 14 ‘N, the northernmost ever reached, then they went  to Franz Joseph Land where wintered in 1895. In 1896 they continued their long journey south to meet with the British explorer Frederick Jackson at Cape Flora, which led them  safe to Norway. The scientific results achieved were of great importance.
In 1905 he participated in the movement that led to independence Norway from Sweden and was appointed Norwegian ambassador to Great Britain from 1906 to 1908. From 1910 to 1914 was engaged in various explorations in the North Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and Siberia. In 1918 he was director for the Assembly of the League of Nations. Nansen dealt for the return of prisoners of war in 1920 and from 1921 to 1923 was responsible for the Red Cross during the great famine in the Volga region and in Ukraine. For this work he received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1922.

BIOGRAPHY curated by Piero Bosco

 

Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton

 

Ernest grew up in a very large family, he had two brothers and eight sisters, but this for him has never meant lack of food or lack of a comfortable home.
Shackleton was bored by the school and did not follow the advises of his father who wanted him to follow in the medical profession. He decided that he wanted to live in the sea and joined the Navy at the age of fourteen years, the minimum limit for entry.
Now that he finally achieved his goal, Shackleton suddenly begun to work hardly.
On 13 September 1900 Shackleton had asked to participate as a volunteer at the English Antarctic Expedition that was organized by Sir Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society. Lieutenant Robert F. Scott, then famous explorer, had been appointed to command the expedition. The expedition set sail from ‘England on August 6 1901, aboard the Discovery, steamy wooden boat. For that time was the best organized expedition ventured to Antarctic. In mid-February 1902, Scott had established the winter quarter at Hut Point on ‘Ross Island. With Shackleton as editor, the expedition has also published the very first magazine of Antarctic, the South Polar Times. On 2 November 1902 Scott left for the South Pole with his scientist Dr Edward Wilson, Shackleton, 19 dogs and 5 sledges. Despite the initial optimism the harsh reality soon took the upper hand. The lack of experience in ski and sled dogs was fatal and the results were very little. Only their physical power allow them to reach 82.16 ° S before turning back. In fact, only Scott and Wilson reached this point, Shackleton was forced to stay behind with dogs.
Although it had been treated as an invalid by Scott, Shackleton decided that it would be  back in Antarctic one day. He did it in 1908. Meanwhile, after his return from the Discovery expedition, Shackleton was married and fathered for the first time. The British Antarctica Expedition left Lyttleton, New Zealand, in the New Year Day of 1908, on board the Nimrod. The small whaler, reached the Ross Ice Shelf in January 1908. Shackleton discovered the Beardmore glacier, named in honor of the sponsor of the expedition and reached 88.23 ° S on the Antarctic Plateau on January 9 1909. He also sent expeditions that have reached the south magnetic pole and the top of Mount Erebus. On his return to England, he became a hero and received numerous awards from different geographical societies.
In 1914, after the Pole was conquered by Roald Amundsen in 1911, Shackleton embarked on a new challenge, wanted to cross the continent on foot, from the Wedell Sea to the Ross Sea.
Leaving the South Georgia in December 1914, the Endurance made his course southward through the pack until it was no longer able to continue and was finally trapped in the ice where he remained for nearly two years in one of the most hostile environments on earth. When the Endurance sanked cause of the ice pressure, Shackleton using sledges and boats first reached Elephant Island in April 15 1916 and then South Georgia on August 30, for a total of about a thousand miles. He then completed the rescue operation of its men who were awaiting rescue in the Ross Sea. Not one man was lost and Shackleton gained the respect and admiration of all his crew.
Returned home he made many conferences abot the Endurance expedition but not brought many economic benefits.
But suddendly in 1921, Shackleton had the opportunity of another Antarctic expedition. Its aim was to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent from the sea, but the plans were  brutally interrupted on January 5 1922, when Shackleton died of a heart attack aboard his ship, the Quest, while it was anchored off the coast of South Georgia near the South Sandwichs. His body was brought to England, but his widow has requested that the burial took place at Grytviken in South Georgia, where Shackleton was buried on March 5 1922.

BIOGRAPHY curated by Piero Bosco