The inaccessibility of the Poles always challenged ambitious men of the early 20th century to risky expeditions. With the dawn of airplanes at the same time, it only was a matter of time until some daredevil would use the new technology for exploration purposes.
The race for the North Pole had been already decided in the eyes of the public when Robert E. Peary had announced that he had reached it in 1909. Roald Amundsen who, had aimed of achieving this feat for himself and Norway, was resolved and fixed to the North Pole, despite his success at the South Pole in 1911. After World War I, it took him another seven years to put his plan to reach the North Pole into action. Then, in 1925, together with his Sponsor Lincoln Ellsworth and the two pilots Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen and Leif Dietrichson plus two engineers, they tried to reach the North Pole by using two flying boats Dornier Do J “Wal” starting from Ny Ålesund on Svalbard. After technical failures, they landed at 87° 43’ N and 10° 20’ 1” W, the northern most point ever reached by a plane.
For his second attempt, Amundsen sided with Italian airship designer Umberto Nobile, an airship pioneer. With the financial aid of the Norwegian Aeroclub, the Italian state and US-businessman Lincoln Ellsworth, Amundsen and Nobile purchased the Italian airship N1, renamed it “Norge” and prepared it for a flight to the North Pole and beyond.
When the three explorers started for their expedition on May11 1926, they just had learned that US pilots Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett had claimed to have reached the North Pole by plane three days earlier. Nevertheless, Amundsen, Nobile and Ellsworth started to their journey and reached the North Pole the very next day. Later on, it was revealed that Byrd and Bennett had in fact NOT reached the North Pole due a navigation errors. Thus, Amundsen, Nobile and Ellsworth were the first people to fly over the North Pole on May 12 1926. However, unknown to the three and the rest of the world was also that Peary’s claim to have reached the Pole in 1909 had been wrong, too. Only 43 years after Amundsen, in the same year as the first man had landed on the moon, the British explorer Walter William Herbert was the first man to reach the North Pole by foot and record it.