The polar expedition of the Duke of the Abruzzi, 1899-1900, on Polar Starship

(To Marina Militare)

Following the first circumnavigation of the globe, performed by piro-corvette Magenta (v.articolo), in order to continue to promote national interests, they began to undertake the first explorations to the poles of the earth for scientific research. Among these expeditions, how can we not count among the most important the company accomplished by the brave crew of Norwegian 9 and Italian 11?

The undertaking, which started on 12 June 1899 from the city of Kristiania (now Oslo) with the steamer Jason, built in Norway in 1883 (later renamed as North Star), is still remembered today for the extraordinary goal achieved at the time. The ship, a 1289 ton wooden hull and a 350 horsepower engine, captained by Louis of Savoy. The latter, born in Madrid on January 29, 1873, entered the naval academy of Livorno and, received in 1890 the title of Duca degli Abruzzi, it became known to have reached 25 1900 midday 86 the latitude of 33 °, 49 ', XNUMX ", the most advanced point reached so far.

After the dangerous and difficult navigation in the glacial sea on 7 August 1899 the steamship entered the bay of Teplitz, and then subsequently continued with the sleds. As expected, the undertaking proved difficult; the same Steamship Jason, which remained as the departure station, reported extensive damage caused by the pressure exerted by the ice on the hull. On Christmas of the same year, in fact, the Duke happened to suffer the freezing of two fingers of his left hand which had to be partially amputated, forcing the delegation of the command of the sleds to the commander Umberto Cagni who was however not exempt from impairments as he too lost one finger of the right hand.

On 11 March 1900, after gathering the necessary provisions to support the enterprise, Cagni was finally able to set off on 13 sledges and after 20 days of walking, Dr. Cavalli-Molinelli, having just passed the 83rd parallel with his group, broke away to be able to return to the bay only after 24 days of troubled vicissitudes.

The remaining 4 men went on their mission, and finally 25 April 1900, Commander Cagni succeeded in touching the 86 ° 33 '49 "(at the 65 ° Meridian of Greenwich) where the four Italian soldiers embarked on the tricolor banner of the united nation.

The 15 August 1900 the North Star finally began the return journey, managing on 11 September 1900 to return to Kristiania. Following these events the steamer North Star it was donated to the Royal Navy which armed it on November 18, 1900, entrusting the command to the lieutenant Roberto Lubelli before concluding the glorious navigation by returning to La Spezia on January 26, 1901.

For its part, the Italian Navy also wanted to express its great and profound admiration for the glory acquired by the homeland by offering a silver shield to the young prince in 1903.

(G. Bernardi, G. Campita, L.Conti, M. Costantini, B. Di Bella, M. Di Marziantonio, S. Fragano, A. Mezzetti, B. Turani).

This article is the result of the training course of school-work alternation in favor of the young students of the "G. De Sanctis" Institute of Higher Education in Rome with the Historical Office of the Navy.