Dispatch from Nanuq: In search of the lost Airship

14 Aug 2018 – Text by Paola Catapano.

The Red Tent, which provided shelter to the ITALIA survivors.

Once we reached the edge of the ice shelf above 82°N, we started the multi-beamer procedure. This was quite a lengthy and complicated procedure, as both the instrument and the software are prototypes. Once it was set up by Mike and Gianluca with the remote assistance of Aleksandra and Thomas from Norbit, we started checking the depth of the sea floor. The instrument works properly below 500 m, and the shorter the better. So we could not collect data on the first theoretical point at 82°N because the sea bottom was above 1000 m deep! Soon the depth decreased to 500 m and we started collecting data, seeing the bottom of the sea floor with the side scan sonar.

We followed the exact trajectory of the Red Tent drift, adjusted to its distance from the lost airship envelope collecting data from the sea bottom all along for over 5 hours – as long as the sea conditions allowed and we could keep the engine on a low speed. Then we needed to set sail towards Foyn and we dismantled the sonar from the dagger board. The data will be analysed by Norbit and we will find out if we saw anything that could belong to the ITALIA! What we certainly did measure was the sea floor at a location that had never before been examined with such detail, giving a precious contribution to the bathymetry of the Arctic ocean at such high latitudes.

The search path taken Nanuq in search of ITALIA.

We’re now in sight of legendary Foyn island after sailing in wonderful NW wind at 15 knots. The Foyn and Broch islands appeared regularly from the fog to the zig-zagging Red Tent and, when the survivors saw them, they got a heartening feeling of being close to land. The ice drift brought them as close as 10 miles from these islands, but the party of 3 who left the Red Tent trying to reach land never did, as they were also drifting on ice back and forth. Foyn is also the island reached by two courageous rescuers: alpine Captain Gennaro Sora and Dutch Arctic guide Sijf van Dongen, who got there on skis from Alpiniøya. We couldn’t anchor at Foyn as there was no obvious anchorage and there were lots of huge waves along the coast, so we decided to head to Alpiniøya.

Follow Nanuq’s position, using the live tracker above!

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