Cover image for Disaster at the pole : the tragedy of the airship Italia and the 1928 Nobile Expedition to the North Pole
Disaster at the pole : the tragedy of the airship Italia and the 1928 Nobile Expedition to the North Pole
Cross, Wilbur.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Lyons Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xiii, 316 pages : photographs ; 24 cm
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Corporate Subject:
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Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
G700 1928 .C72 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In 1926, General Umberto Nobile gained acclaim by crossing the Pole in a dirigible, and in 1926 took a dirigible to the North Pole to land a scientific research team. The ship crashed on the return flight, hundreds of miles from help. This account tells of the crash and the international efforts to rescue the explorers, bringing to life the struggles of the survivors, the heroism and tragedy of rescuers, and political intrigue surrounding the adventure. Cross, a former editor at Life, runs an editorial consulting and writing firm. The book is not indexed. Annotation copyrighted by Book News Inc., Portland, OR

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Cross, an adventure writer, recounts the true adventure story of the wreck of the dirigible Italia during an expedition to the North Pole in 1928. Political intrigue in the Mussolini regime serves as backdrop for the 49-day drama of confused international rescue efforts that ended in the ruined reputation of the airship's designer, General Umberto Nobile. An engineer and scientist, Nobile pioneered the development of lightweight airships but was constantly at odds with the Mussolini regime. He undertook the 1928 expedition to best a previous achievement by landing at the Pole and returning to base camp. However, the expedition ended when the dirigible struck an ice pack in the Arctic Ocean. Nobile was rescued, but several of his crew perished. Cross interviewed Nobile and other survivors and offers a detailed account of the harrowing wreck, survival on ice floes, and heroic rescue attempts. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was among the rescuers who never returned. Cross conveys the political tensions, contentious personalities, technical difficulties, and weather challenges that figured in this polar tragedy. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is an intriguing, at times even heart-stopping, account of an almost-forgotten aviation disaster: a race to fly a dirigible to the North Pole, land the airship and then return to civilization. Led by Umberto Nobile, the Italian aeronautic engineer and airship designer who had crossed the North Pole in a dirigible just two years earlier, the crew of the airship Italia suddenly crashed and was stranded in the frozen north as an international team of rescuers tried, initially unsuccessfully, to save the few survivors. Cross, a former editor at Life magazine, spent more than 30 years researching the crash and its aftermath (interviewing the few living survivors, including Nobile, who had kept copious records, even while fighting against starvation at the North Pole); however, the detail never overwhelms an exciting, well-wrought story. What makes this work stand out among other tales of harrowing heroism is its political intrigue and Cross's deft handling of this added complexity. His presentation of Nobile's overtly unwilling participation in the Fascist reign of Benito Mussolini, as well as the power struggles among the Fascisti for control of what was seen as the next great aviation powerhouse, adds a sad depth and pertinent humanity to Nobile's personal and professional ordeal. His "very real human flaws were greatly accentuated by the circumstances" of living in Italy during the 1920s and 1930s. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In 1925, the renowned Italian aeronautical engineer and explorer Umberto Nobile flew over the North Pole in a dirigible, at the time a considerable feat both of engineering and scientific inquiry. All went well, and in 1928 Nobile attempted to repeat the feat, this time planning on stopping at the pole and landing parties. Unfortunately, Nobile was no longer in favor with the increasingly strident Fascist government and faced many political and physical obstacles. However, he managed to get the expedition airborne and reached the pole safely. On the return leg, the airship foundered in foul weather, stranding the survivors on the icecap. A bizarre tragedy ensued, with searchers from many nations looking for Nobile while the Italian support ship conspicuously failed to participate. A nearly forgotten episode comes to life in this popular history by Cross, a prolific author and former editor at Life. Interesting but probably not vital to public library collections.DEdwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xi
Chapter 1 Prelude to Disasterp. 3
Chapter 2 The Impossible Dreamp. 9
Chapter 3 An Ambitious Undertakingp. 21
Chapter 4 The Next Big Stepp. 35
Chapter 5 Premonitions of Troublep. 51
Chapter 6 Destination Zerop. 67
Chapter 7 The Downfallp. 79
Chapter 8 Picking Up the Piecesp. 101
Chapter 9 Frustrationp. 121
Chapter 10 Split Decisionp. 135
Chapter 11 The Shortwave Dilemmap. 143
Chapter 12 Against the Oddsp. 159
Chapter 13 Manna from Heavenp. 183
Chapter 14 A Decision in Doubtp. 191
Chapter 15 Prison without Barsp. 207
Chapter 16 The Ice Torturep. 225
Chapter 17 Fools Forsakenp. 239
Chapter 18 Breaking the Icep. 253
Chapter 19 Liberationp. 265
Chapter 20 Reverse Rescuep. 275
Chapter 21 Voices Muzzledp. 285
Chapter 22 An Abundance of Enemiesp. 295
Epiloguep. 305
Acknowledgmentsp. 311
Bibliographyp. 315
Indexp. 317