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N-4 Down: The Hunt for the Arctic Airship Italia by Mark Piesing
About The Book
Triumphantly returning from the North Pole on May 24, 1928, the world-famous exploring airship Italia—code-named N-4—was struck by a terrible storm and crashed somewhere over the Arctic ice, triggering the largest polar rescue mission in history. Helping lead the search was Roald Amundsen, the poles’ greatest explorer, who himself soon went missing in the frozen wastes. Amundsen’s body has never been found, the last victim of one of the Arctic’s most enduring mysteries . . .
During the Roaring Twenties, zeppelin travel embodied the exuberant spirit of the age. Germany’s luxurious Graf Zeppelin would run passenger service from Germany to Brazil; Britain’s Imperial Airship was launched to connect an empire; in America, the iconic spire of the rising Empire State Building was designed as a docking tower for airships.
But the novel mode of transport offered something else, too: a new frontier of exploration. Whereas previous Arctic and Antarctic explorers had subjected themselves to horrific—often deadly—conditions in their attempts to reach uncharted lands, airships held out the possibility of speedily soaring over the hazards. In 1926, the famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen—the first man to reach the South Pole—partnered with the Italian airship designer General Umberto Nobile to pioneer flight over the North Pole. As Mark Piesing uncovers in this masterful account, while that mission was thought of as a great success, it was in fact riddled with near disasters and political pitfalls.
In May 1928, his relationship with Amundsen corroded beyond the point of collaboration, Nobile, his dog, and a crew of fourteen Italians, one Swede, and one Czech, set off on their own in the airship Italia to discover new lands in the Arctic Circle and to become the first airship to land men on the pole. But near the North Pole they hit a terrible storm and crashed onto the ice. Six crew members were never seen again; the injured (including Nobile) took refuge on ice flows,unprepared for the wretched conditions and with little hope for survival.
Coincidentally, in Oslo a gathering of famous Arctic explorers had assembled for a celebration of the first successful flight from Alaska to Norway. Hearing of the accident, Amundsen set off on his own desperate attempt to find Nobile and his men. As the weeks passed and the largest international polar rescue expedition mobilized, the survivors engaged in a last-ditch struggle against weather, polar bears, and despair. When they were spotted at last, the search plane landed—but the pilot announced that there was room for only one passenger. . . .
Braiding together the gripping accounts of the survivors and their heroic rescuers, N-4 Down tells the unforgettable true story of what happened when the glamour and restless daring of the zeppelin age collided with the harsh reality of earth’s extremes.
I’ll start admitting that I don’t read history; it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction, unless the book intrigues me, like this one. This book talks about the largest polar rescue mission in history, how the world-famous exploring airship Italia—code-named N-4, got lost in the North Pole; and all the difficult situation that creates with the rescue mission.
Because, even if the main character is an airship, the emotions that trigger a rescue as big as this one, it’s human; hate, rivalry and ego. Some human emotions that we are all aware of, and that in extreme situations can be really dangerous.
This has been a really addictive read, the narrator puts you in the story from the first moment and believe me when I say that it’s impossible to stop reading! You keep wanting to know more and more about the story and how everything will end.
At the same time it will make you want to know more about the story in the book, searching for more facts about it and hoping that we’ll see this book in a movie!
Interesting and intriguing, more scarying than some fiction stories, a must read!
Are you ready to discover the “N-4 Down”?
About The Author
Mark Piesing writes for the Guardian, FT, Economist and Wired, among other publications. He lives in Oxford, England. This is his first book.