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.
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.