ADMIRAL UMBERTO CAGNI
Admiral Umberto Cagni, Count of Bu Meliana. Arctic Explorer. Hand signed autographed photo from 1911. 6" x 10".
(1863-1932) Italian Marine Officer who in 1900 commanded the first Arctic expedition to achieve furthest North after Nansen.
Italian admiral and explorer. After many explorations (Alaska, North Pole, Nile river), he was admiral of the Italian fleet during the First World War.
"In 1899, with a crew of Italian and Norwegian explorers, on the Stella Polare, a 60-ft. whaling vessel, Abruzzi commanded an expedition into the Arctic, determined to achieve, if possible, what Nansen four years earlier had barely failed in the discovery of the North Pole. After a year of intense hardship the expedition withdrew but not until one of the sled parties under Capt. Umberto Cagni had penetrated to a latitude of 80 33', 229.15 statute miles from the Pole and almost 20 nautical miles farther north than any explorer had yet reached.
He had, moreover, determined the northern coast of Franz Josef Land and the non-existence of Petermann Land. He told the story of this expedition in On the "Polar Star" in the Arctic Sea (1903)."-THE NEW INTERNATIONAL YEAR BOOK: A COMPENDIUM OF THE WORLD'S PROGRESS FOR THE YEAR 1933
"Admiral Umberto Cagni, a really heroic figure, who has taken his share in many arduous adventures. The first to recognise his rare qualities was the Duke of the Abruzzi. With his sure discerning eye for men of worth, he at once selected him as his companion on his scientific expeditions. It was during the Polar exploration of 1899-1900 that this companionship ripened into a close friendship. The important part played by Cagni during this expedition has been minutely and faithfully recorded in the Prince's book.
The party left Archangel on the Stella Polare, the vessel the Duke had bought in Norway and fitted up and equipped for a Polar expedition. After great difficulties, caused by the state of the ice, the vessel reached the bay of Teplitz in Prince Rudolph's Land, where they were forced to pitch their tents and winter. For six sunless months they camped here, their sled expeditions proving fruitless owing to the bad state of the ice, which made it perilous, not to say impossible, to proceed further north. Meanwhile they had to watch the vessel that was to reconduct them home slew to one side and hear her crack and groan under the relentless pressure of the ice-blocks.
When the spring came at last, an expedition was organised under the command of Cagni. The Duke, to his intense regret, could not join it, two of his ringers having been frozen during a reconnaissance he had made in the course of the winter. The sled expedition was divided into three sections, which were to remain away a certain number of days. The second party returned to camp at the appointed time ; the first was never heard of again, and the names of its members must be added to the martyrology of the Pole ; the third, led by Cagni, reached lat. 86 33', thus beating Nansen's record, but was forced to turn back owing to lack of provisions, to Cagni's keen disappointment. The return journey proved even more trying than the outward one; and in the end, in order to keep body and soul together, the party was obliged to kill and eat the faithful dogs which had carried them so far in safety a necessity which grieved Cagni deeply.
This Arctic expedition tried the physical fibre of all its members severely, and left indelible traces behind it. Cagni on his return to Italy had to have a finger amputated in consequence of frost-bite. Nothing daunted, however, he resumed his naval career, and was soon after appointed Commander.
In 1911 the Tripoli campaign took place, when Cagni was the hero of a notable exploit. He had been chosen to command a small landing corps consisting for the most part of young sailors and mid-shipmen belonging to the training-ships Emanuel Filiberto, Sicilia, and Carlo Alberto. They were sent off to occupy the town of Tripoli and maintain order. This was believed to be an easy task, as the Turks had retired into the interior and the Arab notables had given assurance that there was no danger.
It was, however, a trap, and on October 12, 1911, Cagni and his handful of youths had to make a fierce fight near Ba-Meliano against Turks and Arabs in overwhelmingly superior numbers. It was due entirely to the extraordinary ability of Cagni, his personal valour and cool- headedness, that these young sailors not only conquered in the fight, but were able to hold the town for a week, to build entrenchments round it and repel the foe, thus paving the way for the landing of the expeditionary force under General Caneva.
Cagni, by a series of clever ruses quite Homeric in character, led the enemy to believe that he commanded a strong force, making his men run here and appear there, wherever he thought the Turks meditated an attack. These really daring manoeuvres, and the manner in which Cagni's men carried out the orders of their adored and blindly trusted commander, earned for them the name of " Garibaldians of the sea," of which they are justly proud.
Various honours were bestowed upon them, they were feted on their return home, and Cagni himself was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. Now he is once more called into action, and Italy may confidently look for yet other bold deeds from this dauntless sailor, whose ruses and resources emulate those of the wily Ulysses himself." - 'ITALIAN LEADERS OF TO-DAY', by HELEN ZIMMERN, 1915.
[Image Copyright, the Lombardi Historical Collection, All Rights Reserved]