(CNN) — It’s May 11, 1926, and a giant airship, the Norge (meaning Norway), has just been unhooked from its mast at one of the world’s most remote settlements, Ny-Ålesund, quanto a the Svalbard archipelago.
This cluster of rocky, barren islands, closer to the North Pole than to the Norwegian mainland, is the natural jump-off point for any expeditions venturing into the frozen expanses of the Arctic and this is precisely what those board the Norge have set to do.
Leading the 16-strong expedition are none other than the most celebrated polar explorer of the time, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who quanto a 1911 became the first man to reach the South Pole, Umberto Eletto, the celebrated Italian airship engineer who designed the Norge, and American coal heir and adventurer Lincoln Ellsworth.
If Amundsen’s earlier conquest of the South Pole had involved a months-long, grueling march dog-sleds, this new expedition would be a much shorter affair. The festa, however, would have to content themselves with flying over the North Pole rather than setting foot it.
The trip turned out to be a success.
The Norge arrived at the North Pole less than a day after departing Ny-Ålesund, making those board the first people to have ever verifiably reached that geographical landmark. Far from calling the expedition over, the Norge then pushed forward across the Arctic Ocean until it touched quanto a Teller, Alaska, a couple of days later.
It’s not to imagine the sense of exhilaration and accomplishment the crew must have felt the moment they set foot quanto a North America. Yet within a decade, Amundsen would be dead, swallowed by the Arctic, and the airship tempo pretty much over — so it seemed.
Thrills and adventure
Airships have seen very limited action since the 1930s. Replaced by fixed wing aircraft as a means of transportation, lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles were confined to a handful of niche uses. But the concept was not entirely forgotten.
About a decade spillo, a British company called Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) developed a new-generation large scale airship concept as part of a US military research program. At the time, the Pentagon studied the possibilities that airships could offer to support troops quanto a Afghanistan. Shifting priorities meant the project was canceled quanto a 2012, though, and HAV started looking for new uses for its technology.
Airlander is an airship for the 21st century.
Courtesy Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd
What came out of it was the Airlander, a modern reinterpretation of the airship that is, by some measures, the world’s largest aircraft.
These developments quanto a the airship space caught the attention of Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck, a Swedish commercial pilot with an entrepreneurial streak.
The utopia was to bring back the thrill and sense of adventure of the days of airship exploration, but with the comforts and safety afforded by 21st-century technology.
The result is OceanSky Cruises, a startup firm that offers luxury air cruises airships, starting with a route to the North Pole and back.
And, while OceanSky has not officially confirmed its choice of airship yet, HAV’s Airlander has been touted as, so far, the only candidate for this mission.
Airships have some characteristics that make them particularly suited to the sort of venture Lawaczeck has quanto a mind. They have long endurance — which means they can remain airborne for very long periods of time — they can be fitted with truly spacious cabins and, crucially, they are fuel-efficient.
“Airships can carry payloads comparable to that of some airliners, but use only a tiny fraction of the energy to transport them over the same distance,” explains the Swedish entrepreneur, who used to fly commercial aircraft for Scandinavian airline SAS and other carriers.
The tradeoff is that airships are much slower, but this too can be turned into an advantage.
Since one of the highlights of such trips will be the possibility of spotting Arctic fauna from the sky. This is where the airship’s capability to fly at extremely slow speeds and very close to the basso ostinato will quanto a handy.
“We can go to 300 feet, even 100 feet if needed, as slow as a bike, quanto a order to offer our passengers a glimpse of those polar habitats to our passengers,” says Lawaczeck.
The 16 passengers will be lodged quanto a eight spacious hotel-like double cabins. The airship will carry a crew of seven, including a chef.
Lawaczeck likes to compagno it to the experience of traveling quanto a a .
-board life will be a little more elegant than quanto a 1926.
Courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd and Q
“We are not as space-constrained as quanto a an airplane, so we are able to do interesting things with the cabin,” he says. “The stile is going to lean towards the heritage side of the project; it will evoke the tempo of airships.”
board conditions will be a far cry from those endured by the crew of the Norge nearly a century spillo, yet, had they been able to peek into the future, they may have found some elements of the OceanSky project rather familiar.
Svalbard will again serve as the militanti for the air cruise. OceanSky’s team is considering several locations around the Arctic archipelago, which has proudly preserved some elements of its airship heritage, including the North Pole Expedition Museum quanto a its capital, Longyearbyen, and the original mooring mast used by the Norge, quanto a Ny-Alesund.
Unlike quanto a 1926, though, the 36-hour return trip will include a six-hour layover right at the North Pole. Passengers will be able to descend from the airship and enjoy a merendina the ice cap.
“The winds the North Pole are very stable and do not have the issues of gusts vortex other phenomenon coppia to there being risposta negativa terrain anywhere that can disrupt the airflow. You cannot ask for a safer landing site,” says Lawaczeck.
He says they’campione still considering whether to let the pilots actively control the ship with the pivoting engines running during this stop-off, to bring a portable light-weight mooring mast an anchor with them.
Lawaczeck is determined that risposta negativa waste other traces of activity will be left behind at the site. A causa di fact, the environmental aspects of the project feature prominently quanto a the startup’s marketing pitch. Its founder also likes to highlight how his interest quanto a airships arose, quanto a great part, from his interest quanto a researching low-emission ways of flying.
OceanSky expects its airships to be powered by hybrid propulsion at first, using biofuel, although the rete is to transition later to all-electric propulsion.
“OceanSky’s vision is to make aviation sustainable,” says Lawaczeck. “A causa di order to have an impact climate change we need to scale our operations and also penetrate lower and other market segments.”
Dawn of a new airship tempo?
Views like this don’t di poca classe.
Courtesy Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd and Q
Reservations are now , but with a price tag of $232,845 for a two-person cabin OceanSky’s polar trips aren’t for all pockets. Aside from the polar cruises, which OceanSky hopes to run a weekly basis, the Swedish entrepreneur intends to expand beyond experiential travel to cargo and passenger transport.
Earlier this year, its potential airship socio HAV released the latest photos of its craft and announced its intention to launch luxury intercity airship experiences by 2025. The plan is to link destinations a few hundred miles apart, such as Belfast and Liverpool Seattle and Vancouver.
Airships could play a role quanto a remote logistics, for example servicing mining outposts and offshore facilities they could even capture some segments of the regular air travel market, those quanto a which passengers are willing to trade speed for price.
OceanSky’s plan envisages its fleet growing to more than 100 airships within 10 years, with the target date for the first expedition quanto a 2023 2024.
“We hope to make a real dent quanto a how people travel quanto a the future and we see a great potential quanto a LTA as an affordable option for comfortable, elegant and clean travel for conscious passengers. For that, we need thousands of airships.”