Tale ved Nobile-monumentet
On the 12th of May 1926 the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile expedition reached the North Pole with the airship "Norge". This was the first verified trip of any kind to the top of the Globe - a geographical point that many had attempted to reach - often at a tragically high cost.
This event - 90 years ago - might seem distant to us, but the key factors that made it a resounding success are highly relevant also in 2016. Most notably, the expedition illustrates the importance of international cooperation if we are to succeed in the Arctic. Secondly, the expedition illustrates that Arctic research and Arctic expeditions are expensive. Lincoln Ellsworth contributed 100 000 USD to the purchase of "Norge" - equivalent to more than 1.3 million USD today.
Roald Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth and Umberto Nobile shared a deep fascination for the Polar regions, and a deep fascination for aviation. What, then, could be better than combining the two in aerial Polar exploration! Being rector at UiT The Arctic University of Norway - a university that has a School of Aviation - I can readily identify with the three gentlemen!
While we commemorate the successful expedition in 1926, the Memorial that we stand beside today is a melancholy reminder of the risks involved. Following two successful flights on the airship "Italia" from Ny-Ålesund in May 1928, led by Umberto Nobile, the third flight - which incidentally reached the North Pole on the 28th of May - ended in a crash landing and the loss of the lives of 8 of the crew members. The accident triggered an international search and rescue effort. In this flurry of activity, Roald Amundsen, onboard the French sea plane "Latham" took off from Tromsø on the 18th of June. The plane, its crew of 6 (including Roald Amundsen) disappeared somewhere in the Barents Sea.
Like the successful expedition in 1926, the search and rescue effort in 1928 relied heavily on international cooperation. Search and rescue in the Arctic in 2016 is obviously greatly helped by the advances in technology that have taken place in the 90 or so years that have passed, but it is - nevertheless - challenging. The distances are immense, infrastructure is poorly developed, and the physical conditions can be harsh. Recognizing these challenges, and recognizing the importance of international collaboration, the member states of the Arctic Council in 2011 signed an Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement - the first binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council.
The two events - the success in 1926 and the tragedy of 1928 - have both contributed to forging strong Polar links between Norway and Italy. The Dirigibile Italia Arctic station (Airship Italia Arctic Station) in Ny-Ålesund illustrates that our two countries have a common interest in the Arctic also in the 21st century. And last - but by no means least! - the fact that RV Kronprins Haakon is currently being built at the Fincantieri ship yard in Genova means that the connections between Norway and Italy, and between Tromsø and Italy will remain strong in the years to come!