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Combrig's 1/700 scale
Soviet Icebreaker Krasin

by Mike McCabe


The rescue of Umberto Nobile and the crew of Italia


Hasegawa's 1/48 scale TA-4J Skyhawk is available online from Squadron.com




The Italian polar explorer Umberto Nobile set out in May 1928 to carry out a series of flights around the North Pole in the airship Italia. Although successfully reaching and flying round the Pole on May 24th, Italia was caught in a storm when returning to Svalbard. On May 25, the Italia crashed onto the pack ice less than 30 kilometres north of Nordaustlandet (Eastern part of Svalbard). Of the 16 men in the crew, ten including Nobile were thrown onto the ice; the remaining six crewmen were trapped as the lightened ship swept the intact gondola skyward; the ship might have then exploded later, but the fate of the six men was never resolved.

In the wake of the crash, a collection of nations, including Soviet Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Italy, launched the first polar air and sea rescue effort. Privately owned ships that had been chartered by polar scientists and explorers also participated. The Norwegian explorer Roald Admunsen, despite personal differences with Nobile, joined the search only to be killed when the seaplane carrying him crashed.

After a month of privation for the Italia survivors, the first rescue plane, a Swedish airforce Fokker ski plane, piloted by Lieutenant Einar_Lundborg landed near the crash site. Nobile had prepared a detailed evacuation plan, with the most seriously wounded man (the heavy built mechanic Cecioni) at the top of the list and himself as number 4, with the navigator (Viglieri) and the radio operator (Biagi) as respectively no. 5 and 6. However Lundborg refused to take anyone but Nobile. He argued that the plane could only take one survivor and the other seriously injured man was so heavy Lundborg was unsure he could take off. Nobile was airlifted to Ryss Island, base camp of Swedish and Finnish air rescue efforts. When Lundborg returned alone to pick up a second survivor he crashed his plane on landing, and was trapped with the other five.



Eventually, Nobile reached the support ship for the expedition Città di Milano where, he later said, he was dismayed at the incompetence he found. His attempts to help co-ordinate the international rescue effort were blocked, and when he threatened to leave he was placed under virtual arrest by Captain Romagna. His telegrams to the survivors still on the ice, as well as to various people involved in the rescue, were heavily censored. It was wrongly reported in Fascist Italian newspapers that his own evacuation was an obvious sign of cowardice. After 48 days on the ice floe, the last five men of his crew were rescued by the Soviet icebreaker Krasin. Nobile insisted that he wanted to continue the search for the six crew who were swept away by the airship when it disintegrated, but he was ordered back to Rome with the others.

The model is inspired by a series of photographs of Krasin showing the unloading of a Junkers ski-plane which was carried to the area to help search for the remaining crew and Lundborg.





The model is the Combrig kit of Krasin, one of their earlier efforts and not as accurate as later releases. I started building my model around the same time as fellow Fine Waterline member Jim Baumann, being more of a stickler for accuracy than I Jim has managed to clear up some details that I didn't have the patience to wait for, so a few things are not quite as they should be. Regardless of this, I rebuilt the bridge from a combination of brass sheet, clear plastic (to allow the windows in the bridge wings to remain clear) and etched railing. Study of photos threw up other details which were added including the numerous small vents made mostly from solder wire. The boat davits proved a challenge but nothing compared to the tortuous task of rigging which took several weeks in the end as most of my models are more modern ships so I had to take my time over this final step.



The Ice Scene


One of the main reasons for building Krasin was that I wanted to try making an ice scene. The base is my usual watercolour paper with acrylic gel, though this time painted in many layers of pale blue, white and also I used vallejo metallic base to try and give a frosty look, this doesn't really show in the photos though.

To show the broken ice around the hull I tried a few methods but eventually settled on a thin sheet of plaster of paris spread over foil and left to dry, then painted the same as the base. I then took the sheet off the foil and broke it into small pieces, sticking the fragments into place around the hull and a fewir pieces trailing in the water.

To finish off, the aircraft and unloading ramp were but from cut and carved plastic strip respectively, with the final touch of some well clothed figures placed suitably around the scene.

Sadly I couldn't find room for a polar bear or other suitable Arctic wildlife.


  • Combrig 1/700 Krasin by Mike McCabe: Image
  • Combrig 1/700 Krasin by Mike McCabe: Image
  • Combrig 1/700 Krasin by Mike McCabe: Image
  • Combrig 1/700 Krasin by Mike McCabe: Image
  • Combrig 1/700 Krasin by Mike McCabe: Image
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Text and Images Copyright 2012 by Mike McCabe
Page Created 27 April, 2012
Last Updated 27 April, 2012

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