- The Italia expedition -

Disaster strikes


Airship Italia gone missing!

Airship Italia gone missing!

The airship Italia made good progress in the early stages, but south of eighty-five degrees the airship ran into strong headwinds and shortly thereafter a fearful storm.

Realising that a crash was imminent, Nobile had the good sense to order that the airship’s engines be shut down, so averting the risk of a fire on impact. At 10.33 on the morning of Friday 25 May, the Italia crashed onto pack ice north-east of Spitsbergen. Nobile, Malmgren and several of the crew were thrown clear – as was Titina the terrier. They were the lucky ones, for within seconds the untethered balloon was blown into the sky again, taking with it six members of the crew. None survived a second uncontrolled crash twenty minutes later.

Titina was the only one who saw a good side to being unceremoniously dumped on the pack ice. She had found the cramped conditions of the Italia not to her liking and survived the crash entirely unscathed. Not so Nobile, who had a severe fracture to his leg and a broken arm. Malmgren broke his arm and others among the ten survivors had fractures, cuts and bruises.

Meanwhile, back at Kings Bay, the Italia’s ground support team is combing the skies to the north, looking forward to welcoming the triumphant airship crew. The hours pass and at first no-one is unduly worried, for well do these folk know that airship travel is rarely predictable. A few hours here or there are no major cause for concern. Perhaps Nobile and his team have just been delayed by headwinds. But Nobile has missed a couple of pre-arranged radio check-ins, and by evening the optimistic mood has been dulled by a nagging worry that perhaps something has gone awfully wrong. Where is the Italia?

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