Rescue of the Airship Italia Survivors - August 1998
By Alfred A. Gruber  (Page 2 of 3)


Figure 4. Ice Breaker Malvgin rendezvous with Graf Zeppelin in 1931 (Scott USSR C26)

Stamps nicely illustrate the melange of ski and float planes, flying boats, and ships coming to the rescue from the northern countries. Norway brings two World War I Brandenburg floatplanes and a sealing ship. The Soviets bring two icebreakers, Krassin, carrying a Junkers G-24 ski plane, and Malygin, with a Junkers F-13 ski plane (Figure 4). Another F-13 with floats leaves Helsinki (Figure 5). Sweden sends a Heinkel 5 floatplane, a Junkers G-24 floatplane and two Fokker C-VD ski planes (Figure 6). Italy dispatches a large Savoia Marchetti S-55 and a Dornier Wal flying boat. One thousand Italian stamps (Scott Italy C7) are privately overprinted on the back to publicize and finance response efforts (Figure 7).

The great Norwegian polar explorer, Roald Amundsen (Figure 8), enters the effort in a French Latham 47 flying boat. It disappears, and is never heard from again.

The ice floe on which the survivors float is covered with thousands of hummocks, which cast continually changing shadows and patterns. The ice, although eight feet thick, is disintegrating. On 17 June they sight an airplane. The Italia crew fires Very lights and smoke, but the Norwegian pilots, passing within two miles, fail to see them. Biagi radios that the airplane was seen. More airplanes appear. Finally, on 20 June, Major Maddalena installs a radio in his S-55 and is guided to the site by Biagi where supplies are dropped. There is no stretch of water for the large flying boat to land and rescue the men.

Figure 5. Junkers F-13 ski plane ( Scott Sweden C6, C7)

Figure 6. Fokker CV (Scott Denmark 697)

Figure 7. Private overprint on back side of Italian stamp (Scott Italy C7) to raise support for rescue effort

Figure 8. Roald Amundsen, 1872-1928 (Scott Norway 399)

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