OSLO – Norway plans to resume the search for South Pole conqueror Roald Amundsen's plane 81 years after it vanished during an Arctic rescue mission, the Royal Norwegian Navy announced Monday.
Amundsen disappeared aboard the French Latham 47 flying boat in the Barents Sea on June 18, 1928. The plane was searching for the gas-filled airship "Italia," which crashed when returning from the North Pole during an expedition led by Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile.
"We want to find the plane and help solve the mystery," said Navy Cmdr. Frode Loeseth said by telephone. "This will be conducted as a military operation."
On Dec. 14, 1911, Amundsen, a Norwegian, became the first person to reach the South Pole, beating Robert F. Scott, a Briton. Scott and four companions reached the pole the following month but died on the way out.
Amundsen was also the first to sail the Northwest Passage north of Canada, and in 1918, allowed his ship "Maud" to freeze in into the Arctic ice in hopes of drifting with the floes to the North Pole. That effort did not succeed, but in 1926, Amundsen and a crew that included Nobile successfully flew over the North Pole in airship "Norge."
Two years later, the "Italia," with Nobile aboard, crashed in the Arctic, and Amundsen took off to join the search. Amundsen's plane vanished, probably north of Bear Island in the Barents Sea, and no trace has ever been found of Amundsen or his crew.
Nobile and seven other members of the 16-person crew on the "Italia" were later found alive.
Loeseth said new clues and new technology, including a remote-controlled submarine, auguer well for a project that includes the Navy, the Norwegian Air Force Museum and specialist companies.
"If the plane is there, we will find it," said Loeseth.
Even though the Latham 47 was built of wood on a steel frame, experts say major components such as the engines might still be visible on the ocean floor.