Coming Soon! Disaster at the Pole: The Crash of the Airship Italia

30 Jan

By Wilbur Cross.  Available soon at iUniverse Books

Filled with political intrigue, heroics, and cruel twists of fate, “Disaster at the Pole” is the fascinating and true account of one of the greatest artic expedition disasters and international rescue missions.

In the tradition of the powerful stories of explorers Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen, here is one of the most bizarre and tragic tales of polar adventure.

Against the backdrop of Mussolini’s rising power, one of Italy’s premier aeronautical engineers, Umberto Nobile, gained acclaim by crossing the North Pole in a dirigible. Buoyed by this success, Nobile decided in 1928 to raise the ante and take his newly designed airship to the North Pole, land it, and then return to base. But what started in glory turned to disaster when the airship crashed some three hundred miles from civilization.

Nobile in Airship Italia

With more than thirty years of research and interviews with surviving participants, Wilbur Cross presents this terrifying tale of tragedy and survival. Here is the story of the airship’s survivors, who were stranded on a disintegrating ice floe — and of a determined international team of rescuers, including the famous Amundsen, whose desperate search for the missing Italians led to their own disaster. And it’s the story of the controversy surrounding the rescue of Nobile while much of his crew perished in the icy wastelands of the Arctic.


General Umberto Nobile

Umberto Nobile, Artic explorer and Italian aeronautical engineer, known as a developer and promoter of semi-rigid airships (Zeppelins) during the Golden Age of Aviation between World War I and II. He designed and piloted the Airship Norge, the first aircraft to reach the North Pole and to fly across the polar ice cap from Europe to America. Nobile’s second polar mission in the Airship Italia ended in a deadly crash and an international rescue.

Reader Review:

In the early years of the twentieth century, there were several explorers that journeyed to the North Pole. They went to vast desolate regions of terrible cold, to places of the earth that no man had gone to before. One of those explorers was Umberto Nobile of Italy. Nobile is not very well known today, but he was a man of great honor and courage. This book tells his personal story, and the story of his final polar expedition in 1928. Nobile chose a unique method for exploring the Pole: he used a lighter than air airship named the Italia. The Italia was similar in general design to the famous Hindenberg, but it was smaller and more flexible in flight. 

The Red Tent, 1971

Nobile meticulously planned his exploration, but despite those preparations disaster struck and the Italia crashed onto the polar ice. The survivors then had to struggle with great endurance through desperate conditions. This is ultimately a book about courage, both from the crew of the Italia and those that tried to save them in one of the largest rescue efforts ever undertaken. Nobile had to also endure much unjust criticism and political pressure from the Fascist Government of Mussolini. His story shows how hard it can be to extend the frontiers of science; and the tremendous heart that is required to reach into the unknown.

Movie: The Red Tent. The story of Umberto Nobile and the crash of the Italia and international rescue efforts was made into a film in 1971 called “The Red Tent”, starring Peter Finch as General Nobile and Sean Connery as Roald Amundsen.
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Posted by on January 30, 2010 in Books


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