I enjoyed reading the book,Disaster at the Pole. It’s a story about Umberto Nobile, an Italian aeronautical engineer and pioneer in Arctic aviation. He had designed and built dirigibles for Italy during the Italo-Turkish war in 1912. The book is a discription of his historic flights in airships across the North Pole. Born in 1885 in Italy, he died in Rome in 1978. During his life he made two flights in balloons over the pole without landing on either flight. The first was a joint Norwegian-American-Italian project. The project involved three men from different countries. From Norway, the famous explorer Roald Amundsen, from America the wealthy adventurer Lincoln Ellsworth and from Italy, Nobile. Nobile designed and flew the dirigible. The flight actually began in Rome and after crossing the pole, weather forced them to land in the settlement Teller near Nome, Alaska. There the airship was dismantled to be transported back to Italy, but souvenir collectors destroyed the ship.
The flight gave Amundsen the distinction of being the first person to travel to both poles. But after the flight a public dispute broke out between Amundsen and Nobile for credit as leader of the project. As a result, Nobile decided to make a second flight in 1928 – this time without Amundsen. On May 22, 1928 he and nine crew members crossed the pole in the airship named Italia, but crashed on an ice floe with all surviving the crash. A massive search was started. A Swedish pilot spotted them and flew Nobile out. Unfortunately, the pilot damaged the plane on his return landing for the others and ended up having to be rescued as well. All were saved, just as the floe was breaking up, when a Russian icebreaker reached the ice flow, some seven weeks after the airship had crashed. A tragic twist to the rescue mission was the fact Amundsen died traveling by air from Norway to help in the rescue mission.
Some two hundred thousand cheering Italians met Nobile and the crew on the arrival in Rome. However, shortly after arriving Nobile, in a meeting with the dictator Benito Mussolini, managed to offend him. A rigged inquiry followed, trying to blame him for the crash, but he managed to get through the inquiry without being jailed and went to Russia where he helped with their airship program. In 1939 he immigrated to the U.S. and did not return to Italy until after the Second World War ended where he taught the University of Naples until his retirement.