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Norge—the airship first bringing humans to the North Pole

17 April 2017

Norge was built for a single purpose and that was as transport for arctic exploration. Airships were the vehicle of choice back in the day (in this case the early 1920s) as they were faster, more reliable and longer ranged than aircraft—as well as free from the maritime constraints  of ships.

Famed polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth combined efforts to fly over the North Pole as well as transit the arctic ice cap for a flight in 1926. Equally famous as an airship pilot and airship designer Umberto Nobile was engaged to modify his N-1 airship design as well as pilot the airship Norge on what became known as the Amundsen–Ellsworth 1926 Transpolar Flight.

The Norge was a semi rigid airship with a cruciform tail recently indebted by the Schütte-Lanz company (becoming the standard in Hindenburg designs as well). Metal framing gave shape to the nose and tail with a flexible metal keel aiding in the length dimension. Pressurization of the enveloped then gave the final aerodynamic shape with hydrogen filled gas cells providing lift (displacement, really). A control gondola and three engine gondolas completed the overall design. 16 men formed the Norge’s compliment on the expedition. Although not landing at the North Pole the expedition flew over it on 12 May 1926, dropping flags of Norway, the United States and Italy to signify the accomplishment of being the first to the North Pole.

The Norge was 347′ 9″ in length and has a payload capacity of 20,900 pounds using 670,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas. Three Maybach Mb.IV could power the Norge to 71 mph.

The airship Norge on the island of Svalbard—Nasjonalbiblioteket image

The airship Norge aloft and looking from the bows (note the dangling ground handling lines)—Nasjonalbiblioteket image

The Norge coming into the hangar (note the photographer behind a tripod in the foreground)—Nasjonalbiblioteket image

Airship Norge aloft over Svalbard (note the reindeer drawn sled)—Nasjonalbiblioteket image

The airship Norge comes to a mooring mast (a mooring mast is the airship equivalent of laying at anchor)—Nasjonalbiblioteket image

The Norge elegantly sailing over her home country of Norway—Nasjonalbiblioteket image

4 Comments leave one →
  1. John Lilley permalink
    17 April 2017 03:28

    Very cool Joe

    I loved the Duxford articles as a volunteer restorer there for 10 years I worked on the Sunderland, Mosquito, Lancaster and many more…..

    Good memories

    Sent from my iPhone


    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      17 April 2017 07:24

      Quite a history in aircraft restoration you have John 🙂 I’m sure we’ll be back at Duxford late next year and then I’ll be able to spend the proper amount of time–we had to fly through on the last visit. Quite a candy store you were in during your work there 😉

  2. 18 April 2017 03:55

    I dropped the link on this wonderful article on the Aerocrat facebook groop where all can discuss topics about aeronautic and airships…

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      18 April 2017 09:41

      Most polite of you to drop your note and a very cool web link 🙂

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