Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The search for Amundsen

The Winter 2009/2010 issue of the Explorers Journal, the official quarterly of the The Explorers Club, is a bipolar special. Features include a travel piece on sailing the 90 degrees North in a Russian nuclear icebreaker and exploring Antarctica by kayak.

In the news section I spotted an item about a Norwegian Navy vessel heading to the Barents Sea where they will scour an area of the seabed in search of the missing seaplane of polar legend Roald Amundsen. The Norwegian explorer, the first person to navigate the Northwest Passage and the first to reach the South Pole, disappeared in 1928 while trying to rescue Umberto Nobile, an Italian who had flown to the pole in the airship Italia and crash landed on the ice on the way back.

Despite having fallen out with Nobile after a 1926 flight over the pole, two years later Amundsen offered to go and look for him. On June 18 1928 at around 4.00 PM, he took off with a crew of six in a state of the art twin-engine Latham 47. Three hours later the plane transmitted what were to be its final signals. Nobile and his crew were rescued on June 22.

Last August, a team led by New Zealand explorer Rob McCallum returned from a two week search for the aircraft empty handed. Lots of useful information can be found at Search For Amundsen.


  1. Thanks for posting this -- I had heard about the search for Amundsen, but hadn't come upon this detailed site. It sounds as though the area has been so much scoured by trawling that the recovery of an intact plane is very unlikely.

    I'm reminded of a story told by Edward Beauclerk Maurice in his book The Last Gentleman Adventurer (which I recommend). He was working at a remote Hudson's bay post in Canada in the 1930's, when a pair of young American fliers made an unexpected landing in a seaplane. On a sort of lark, they were planning to cross over the north Atlantic, and the trader helped them fill up their fuel tanks with everything he had on hand. Edward gave them some letters to post home to his family, and everyone at the post turned out to give the fliers a send-off. For two years, he heard nothing of their fate, until a package arrived from Denmark. Inside was the oilskin wallet of one of the airmen, which Edward's letters still tucked inside it; it had been found by Danish fishermen in their nets, and they'd sent it to the address on the letters.

  2. Another fascinating comment. Much appreciated and thanks for Beauclerk Maurice recommendation - just ordered a copy.