Airship Italia & its gigantic Arctic hangar

"Airship Italia was a semi-rigid airship belonging to the Italian Air Force. It was used by Italian engineer and General Umberto Nobile in his second series of flights around the North Pole. It crashed in 1928, with one confirmed fatality from the crash, one fatality from exposure while awaiting rescue, and the death of six crew members who were trapped in the still-airborne envelope. At the end of the rescue operations there were 17 dead (crew and rescuers)."

The giant hangar built for an Arctic airship

EXCERPT: [...] The airship Italia [...] has just arrived at Kings Bay having completed the final leg of its flight from Rome. Nobile’s mission is to explore the last big blank space on the globe: the Arctic. The aviator thinks there is still an area about half the size of Canada where few – if any –humans have ever set foot.

[...] The alien-like building is the airship hanger at Kings Bay. Without the shelter from Arctic storms it provides, the expedition would be impossible. The need to construct hangars large enough to house these goliaths led to some of the most striking architecture of the 20th Century. Constructions on a monumental scale [...]

The hangar at Kings Bay was no exception. It was one of the largest structures of its kind in the world at that time. [...] It took Norwegian engineer Joh Höver around seven days to even find a site large enough for it. [...] The builders had less than two months to ship material from as far away as Rome to within spitting distance of the North Pole

Even more remarkably, it was built in one of the most extreme environments on the planet in a race against the clock. The builders had less than two months to ship material from as far away as Rome to within spitting distance of the North Pole before the Arctic winter set in. It then had to be built by only 32 workers during the winter months – during which the islands would be cut off by ice from the rest of the world, with 24-hour darkness.

Explorers at the time likened it to the wonders of the world. [...] Eighty years later, engineers agree [...] “Building in the Arctic is challenging even today. The construction of this hangar was an incredible undertaking for the 1920s.” [...] “Many things were impressive about the hangar. The size. The systems they needed in place to build it. It was one of the largest buildings of its kind in the world and certainly the largest building in the Arctic.”

[...] “Was building this hangar the equivalent of landing a man on the moon? [...] In a way it was worse than landing on the Moon. The astronauts were protected from the cold of space. These men weren’t. They were working with almost their bare hands.”


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