With a HUGIN AUV from Kongsberg Maritime as the main search tool, the Norwegian
Navy today, Monday 24 August, starts the historical search for Amundsen's airplane, missing since 1928.
Amundsen's plane and its crew disappeared on the 18th of June 1928.
Photo of Roald Amundsen taken in 1925.
The HUGIN 1000 AUV fitted with HISAS 1030 synthetic aperture sonar.
Map indicating Bjørnøya - Bear Island located about misway between Norway and Svalbard.
The Royal Norwegian Navy and a team of experts will conduct the nearly two week
search based on directions given by a group of experts from the Norwegian Aviation
Museum. They will explore an area close to Bjørnøya - Bear Island where the plane, a Latham 47,
is assumed to have gone down and where local fishermen might previously have found
parts of an airplane engine. The search will continue until the 4th of September
unless anything is found earlier. While the coast guard will contribute with their
vessel KV Harstad, the navy will operate the HUGIN 1000 from their KNM Tyr.
"HUGIN 1000 MR is the main search tool for this job. Covering 34 square nautical
miles is not possible with a camera so we are very lucky to have this instrument.
This is a state-of-the-art AUV with the capacity to go down to 1000 metres and an
operational speed of 4 knots. We can have this out at sea for 18 hours continually.
If the plane is there, we are confident that we will find it," explained Captain
Lieutenant Helge Stian Telle of the Royal Norwegian Navy. In addition to being part
of an historical search, the expedition to Bjørnøya will give the navy an opportunity
to test the HUGIN 1000 in arctic waters.
An ideal search tool
Vice President of AUVs for Kongsberg Maritime, Mr. Bjørn Jalving is positive
that HUGIN 1000 MR is an ideal tool in the search for Latham, given its new and
advanced technological developments.
"We are proud to support this project. The HUGIN 1000 AUV with the HISAS 1030
synthetic aperture sonar has a new level of resolution and range in acoustic imagery
and is especially designed to find small, modern mines, efficiently searching large
areas. It is therefore very well suited for finding the Latham airplane. Its advanced
navigation system counters the fact that GPS does not work under water. Consequently,
if the airplane is found, its position will be well known," commented Jalving.
A battle to reopen the search
Amundsen's plane and its crew disappeared on the 18th of June 1928 on a mission
to save the Italian general and aviation engineer Umberto Nobile. Despite a search
directly after the disappearance of the Latham 47 plane, only a pontoon and one
single fuel tank were found. 75 years after Amundsen vanished, the Norwegian Aviation
Museum decided to reinvestigate the disappearance. A search was carried out in 2004,
but had to be called off due to bad weather. Since then, the Norwegian Aviation
Museum has fought a battle to reopen the search, and today they start what might
be the final chapter in the mystery of the disappearance.
"It is hard to estimate our chances of finding the airplane. The fabric of the
wings will be gone by now, but the 8 cylinder engine is quite unique for its time
and will be easy to identify if it is found. The search area is estimated based
on stories from eyewitnesses and previous findings", says the former director of
the Norwegian aviation museum, Kjell M. Lutnes, who is also a member of the expert
group for the search.
An historical dream
In addition to the Royal Norwegian Navy, the Norwegian Aviation Museum and Kongsberg
Maritime, Context TV is part of the search team. They are a Berlin-based production
company specialising in documentaries related to scientific-historical expeditions
and explorations with main emphasis on the underwater segment. Context TV has shown
an interest in the project from the beginning. They have conducted extensive research
on the disappearance of the plane and will document the search. When the search
reopens today, all parties are well prepared with better equipment and personnel.
"Our historical dream is about to come true during this search for Amundsen and
this is made possible thanks to Context-TV, Kongsberg Maritime and the Norwegian
Navy," said Navigator Per Arvid Tellermann from the Norwegian Aviation Museum.