Space weather conditions during the shipwreck of the airship Dirigibile Italia in the 1928 polar venture

Zolesi B., Pezzopane M., Bianchi C., Meloni A., Cander Lj. R.

IV - Geofisica e fisica dell'ambiente
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On 25th May 1928 the airship Dirigibile Italia, after over flight the North Pole and coming back to its base in Ny Alesund, shipwrecked on the iced pack in a zone at about 400 km north east of the Svalbard Islands. Survivors, by using a portable HF radio transmitter tried, unsuccessfully, to send SOS messages to the ship of the Italian Navy closely anchored at King's Bay. Only after many days a Russian radio amateur, close to the town of Arkangelsk far about 1900 km, was able to listen the messages and launch the alarm. This paper aims to give a retrospective image of the space weather conditions (paleo-ionosphere) in that epoch in order to explain the radio communications problems encountered by the survivors. A model based on the ITU ionospheric mapping has been applied, along with ancient geomagnetic measurements analysis to generate several scientific hypotheses on the ionospheric propagation conditions during the event. These results could usefully contribute to a huge number of discussions and controversies published not only in the newspapers of that epoch and beyond, but also nowadays in memorials of the airship Dirigibile Italia tragedy.

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