A gripping tale of a disastrous expedition to the North Pole led by the Italian dirigible designer Umberto Nobile.
Cross (The Conway Twitty Story, 1986) began researching the Italia story in the late 1950s while writing adventure pieces for True magazine. He interviewed not only Nobile and other survivors, but also members of the international search parties who combed the Arctic in 1928 looking for the downed airship, and he has created a remarkably detailed picture of the crash of the Italia on a floating ice pack and of the ordeal of the survivors, battling harsh conditions and physical pain and frustrated by repeated failures to establish radio contact with potential rescuers. After the crash, the main group of survivors coped for 49 days, stranded on the ice, while three men left the crash site and set out across the ice pack on foot in hopes of reaching land. The author also describes the sad fate of the various rescuers, some of whom ended up needing to be rescued themselves. Nobile and the Italia were the victims not just of the forces of nature, Cross maintains, but of political intrigue as well. Their base ship, the Città di Milano, made no attempt to locate them, and the Italian government made no attempt to coordinate the efforts of the numerous rescue teams that converged on the Arctic from around the world. Nobile had previously resisted Fascist attempts to take over his aeronautical business and had made enemies among the Italian military and government figures; he found his reputation in tatters after the event. Having been lifted off the melting ice pack ahead of his men, much against his wishes, he faced accusations of cowardice, was condemned in the press, and became a virtual political prisoner upon his return to Italy.
A heart-warming chronicle of human courage and endurance, as well as a welcome restoration of a pioneering aeronautical engineer's tarnished reputation.