You may have spotted that Ny Ålesund is my favourite place. It is very beautiful and feels very remote. It feels like a settlement, somewhere that you could really live, but it is quiet – no crowds and shops. In the summer there are about 150 people but there are only around 40 people who live here all through the year.
Ny Ålesund was the site of several attempts to fly to the North Pole by airship, and the airship mast that was used in 1926 and 1928 is still standing. Amundsen’s airship, Norge, constructed by an Italian called Umberto Nobile, flew from Ny Ålesund in 1926, crossed the North Pole and reached Teller in Alaska. Because of the subsequent argument as to whether the credit should go to Norway or Italy, Nobile flew again from Ny Ålesund, in an airship called Italia, in 1928. Nobile reached the North Pole and turned round to return to Ny Ålesund, but crash landed onto the ice. Part of the airship drifted away with five of the crew, and nine of the crew were left behind on the ice. Nobile had a broken leg and another crew member was injured. There was a massive search and rescue operation launched involving more than 1,400 people, with more than 20 aircraft and 14 ships. Amundsen joined the operation in his flying boat Latham but crash landed and Amundsen died, one of 17 men to die in the rescue expeditions.
Nobile was rescued by the Swedish pilot Ejnar Lundborg and the icebreaker Krassin, rescued the remaining crew from the ice.