Kings Bay is the most northerly permanent settlement in the world
Eighty years later, engineers agree with Amundsen’s assessment. “Building in the Arctic is challenging even today,” says Hannele Zubeck, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage and a specialist in Arctic construction. “The construction of this hangar was an incredible undertaking for the 1920s.”
“Many things were impressive about the hangar,” adds Olav Gynnild, senior curator at the Norwegian Aviation Museum. “The size. The systems they needed in place to build it. It was one of the largest buildings of its kind in the world and certainly the largest building in the Arctic.”
The story of the hanger actually began three years before Nobile’s arrival at Kings Bay. On 1 September 1925, Benito Mussolini, the leader of Fascist Italy, and Amundsen representing the Norwegian Aero Club, signed a contract. The Italians would provide the sister ship to the Italia called the Norge, and build the hangar and airship masts necessary for what would become known as the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile Expedition.