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A series of short articles with a North Polar Regions theme . . .
THE 1928 CRASH OF THE AIRSHIP ITALIA
The Rescue Operations and
The Search for Roald Amundsen
~ A Pictorial History ~
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The Rescue Operations . . .
The Savoia hydroplane in which the Italian pilot Maddalena sighted the Red Tent location on June 20, the first to find the Red Tent. Maddalena dropped supplies but did not land. This photo was taken at the harbor at Vads°, Norway on Maddalena's flight from Italy to Spitsbergen.
The Red Tent under the wing of Lundborg's over-turned biplane. The five remaining Italia survivors, plus Lundborg, moved the Red Tent to the Fokker location when part of ice floe began breaking up.
The Fokker biplane in which the Swedish pilot Einar Lundborg removed Umberto Nobile from the ice floe on which Italia survivors were stranded. Lundborg damaged his plane on the return for more Italia survivors and spent two weeks on the ice floe himself before he was rescued.
The ski-equipped DeHavilland Moth in which the Swedish pilot Schyberg landed on the Red Tent ice floe to remove Einer Lundborg on July 6. By this time the ice floe was badly disintergrating and the Moth did not return.
The Russian ice-breaker Krassin in the harbor at Kings Bay after rescuing remaining Italia survivors on July 12, 1928. Five crew-members spent seven weeks on the Red Tent ice floe before the Krassin rescued them.
The Rescue Operations. The Italia crash sparked the first massive air-sea rescue operation in the Far North. Ultimately five countries sent planes, pilots, and ships to the Svalbard area to aid in the search. But in reality no one was in charge and there was little, if any, coordination of activities. The Italian ship CittÓ di Milano, in the harbor at Kings Bay, served as the expedition's base ship and carried a small contingent of Alpini soldiers proficient in mountaineering; otherwise, there were no advance preparations for the possibility of a disaster. There were no airplanes in Spitsbergen at the time.
 
The following is a brief chronology of rescue operations related to the Italia tragedy:
May 23, 1928  The Italia crashes on the ice at 81║14'N, 25║25'W, north of North
   East Land in the Svalbard Archipelago. [The ice floe drifted extensively and
   at various times survivors were in sight of land].
May 31  Unable to establish radio contact, three Italia survivors begin a trek  
   toward land.
June 5  A Norwegian pilot makes the first flight in search of the Italia. In the
   ensuing weeks, pilots from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Italy make
   search and rescue flights.
June 6   A Russian radio operator hears the Italia SOS signals.
June 8  Radio contact established between the ice floe and the CittÓ di Milano.
   Search operations continue.
June 18  Roald Amundsen disappears on a flight to Spitsbergen to aid in
   rescue operations.
June 20  An Italian pilot spots the Red Tent location and drops supplies.
June 23  A Swedish pilot removes Nobile from the ice floe but damages his
  plane on the return for more survivors.
July 12  The Russian ice-breaker Krassin rescues remaining Italia survivors.
 
Once radio contact was established with Italia survivors and rescue operations were underway, the focus shifted to a search for Roald Amundsen who with five others in a French Latham seaplane had disappeared on a flight from Troms° in northern Norway to Spitsbergen. At this point France joined five other countries already in the Svalbard area in sending ships and planes to take part in the search.
NEXT: THE SEARCH FOR AMUNDSEN
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THE 1928 CRASH OF THE AIRSHIP ITALIA
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