The Duke of AbruzziPosted: June 16, 2015 Filed under: heroes, Italy, mountains, photography, Tibet, travel, writing 2 Comments
This one prompted me to pick up a book I’d been hearing about for awhile. Wade Davis has been featured on Helytimes before.
The opening chapter of this book is intense, vivid writing about the British experience on the Western Front during World War I. Thought I’d read enough about that horror show: Robert Graves and Paul Fussell and Geoff Dyer. Maybe the guy who hit me in the guts the hardest was Siegfried Sassoon, in part because of what a groovy idyllic life got catastrophically ruined for him.
But Wade Davis makes it all new again. One paragraph will do:
Click here if you want to see a photo of Mallory’s dead body, discovered in 1999, seventy five years after he was lost on Everest. Only halfway through Davis’ book, at the moment I’m deep in Tibet suffering along on the painstaking surveying expeditions.
A character keeps popping like a fox into the story and then disappearing — a rival mountaineer, the Duke Of Abruzzi.
(You can read about Abruzzi, why I’d be interested in a duke from there here.) What a life. Says Wiki:
He had begun to train as a mountaineer in 1892 on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa (Italian Alps): in 1897 he made the first ascent of Mount Saint Elias (Canada/U.S., 5,489 m). There the expedition searched for a mirage, known as the Silent City of Alaska, that natives and prospectors claimed to see over a glacier. C. W. Thornton, a member of the expedition, wrote: “It required no effort of the imagination to liken it to a city, but was so distinct that it required, instead, faith to believe that it was not in reality a city.”
Another witness wrote in The New York Times: “We could plainly see houses, well-defined streets, and trees. Here and there rose tall spires over huge buildings which appeared to be ancient mosques or cathedrals.”
If you’re climbing K2 you’re liable to be on the Abruzzi Spur:
Late in life:
In 1918, the Duke returned to Italian Somaliland. In 1920, he founded the “Village of the Duke of Abruzzi” (Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi orVillabruzzi) some ninety kilometres north of Mogadishu. It was an agricultural settlement experimenting with new cultivation techniques. By 1926, the colony comprised 16 villages, with 3,000 Somali and 200 Italian (Italian Somalis) inhabitants. Abruzzi raised funds for a number of development projects in the town, including roads, dams, schools, hospitals, a church and a mosque. He died in the village on 18 March 1933. After Italian Somaliland was dissolved, the town was later renamed to Jowhar.
Let’s skip to the best part of any Wikipedia page, “Personal Life:”
In the early years of the twentieth century the Abruzzi was in a relationship with Katherine Hallie “Kitty” Elkins, daughter of the wealthy American senator Stephen Benton Elkins, but the Abruzzi’s cousin King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy refused to grant him permission to marry a commoner. His brother, Emanuele Filiberto, to whom Luigi was very close, convinced him to give up the relationship. His brother later approved of young Antoinette “Amber” Brizzi, the daughter of Quinto Brizzi, one of the largest vineyard owners in northern Italy. In the later years of his life, Abruzzi married a young Somali woman named Faduma Ali.
Here is a picture of the Duke of Abruzzi:
That was taken by Vittorio Sella.
The high quality of Sella’s photography was in part due to his use of 30×40 cm photographic plates, in spite of the difficulty of carrying bulky and fragile equipment into remote places. He had to invent equipment, including modified pack saddles and rucksacks, to allow these particularly large glass plates to be transported safely. His photographs were widely published and exhibited, and highly praised; Ansel Adams, who saw thirty-one that Sella had presented to the US Sierra Club, said they inspired “a definitely religious awe”.
More on the Duke by Peter Bridges at VQR
Hey again I just yank photos and stuff from books from all over — not sure if that’s like an ok practice but this is a non-profit site, try to credit everyone, the whole point is that maybe you will want to go look at/read the originals.
I admire and I recognize your curiosity for the life of the Duke of the Abruzzi. I am his great-granddaughter. We are orignally from Avezzano
Amazing! So great to hear from you and thanks for writing.