Delighted as I was to discover Hall’s passport tucked away in a scrapbook of his stuff dating back to 1915 or so, it not only didn’t solve one mystery, but also unleashed an even greater one.
On November 29, 1928 Hall writes: At Lugano a huge crowd was cheering some person who got in the car ahead of me. At each station a huge crowd would always be waiting to cheer him. The people were very excited. Not to be left out, between two stations when the battle to be near him had subsided a bit, I asked him to sign my passport which he did. A young man, nice looking, with a sense of humor. I cannot read his signature, but later found out that he was returning from the North Pole, an Italian.
Hall didn’t know who this fellow was, but I knew instantly that just it had to be Umberto Nobile. Here’s a link that describes his accomplishments, his airship wreck on the arctic ice, and his subsequent rescue far better than I would be able to do: Umberto Nobile. Trouble is, I can’t find Nobile’s signature in Hall’s passport. I did find a facsimile of his signature on the web and it doesn’t look anything like the only signature I can’t identify—see page 3. Several members of Nobile’s crew survived the crash and this was likely one of those exceedingly lucky men. Bummer!