Enrico Alberto d’Albertis (23 March 1846 – 3 March 1932) was an Italian navigator, writer, philologist, ethnologist and philanthropist. His cousin Luigi Maria d’Albertis was also an explorer and naturalists.
Born at Voltri, now part of Genoa, d’Albertis enlisted in the Royal Italian Navy and took part in the Battle of Lissa (1866). Later he served on the battleships Ancona and Formidabile. Later he moved to the Merchant Navy, and was the commander of Emilia, the lead ship of the first Italian convoy in the Suez Canal.
Starting from 1874, he dedicated his life to yachting.
After founding the first Italian Yacht Club in 1879, he recreated Christopher Columbus’ journey to San Salvador by sailing two cutters, the Violante and the Corsaro, using nautical instruments he had handcrafted, modeled on the ones used by Columbus. In addition, D’Albertis traveled around the world three times, circumnavigated Africa once, and carried out archaeological digs with Arturo Issel. During World War I, he patrolled as a volunteer in Tyrrhenian Sea, receiving the Merit Cross.
D’Albertis personally designed the Castello d’Albertis, his residence in Genoa, where he showed his personal collection, including, among the others, weapons from his trips to Malaysia, Australia, Turkey, America and Spain. Some rooms were in typical yachts design. D’Albertis died at Genoa in 1932. His castle and collections were donated to the city of Genoa, who turned them into the Museum of World Cultures.
The figure of the captain d’Albertis was certainly that of an original person, animated by a taste for challenges, discovery and exploration. In 1872, then at only twenty-six years of age he traveled the distance between his city, Genoa, and Turin using a wooden velocipede with metal wheels. Around the same time, the journey between the Ligurian capital and Nice was covered on foot and in record time.
His first trip around the world – which would open a series of memorable circumnavigations especially in the Mediterranean Sea and along the coasts of Europe – did it in 1877. The crossing that would have made him famous in the world of navigators organized it in 1891, the year before the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Cristoforo Colombo; d’Albertis had a specially built yacht – the Corsaro – and with it retraced Columbus’s course. In twenty-seven days of navigation, using the same equipment used by his great predecessor, he reached the coasts of San Salvador. The jump from the island of Caribbean to New York, to receive the official greeting of the US authorities, was brief.
The journey back to the old continent was not as comfortable for d’Albertis as it had been, after all, the one going, although it happened on one of the four school ships of the Naval Academy of Livorno that were at anchor in the bay of San Lorenzo . The ship on which the captain was staying, in fact, ran into a storm that caused waves ten meters high while he was off the island of Terranova and only after a few days of navigation he managed to get out of the storm.
Returning to his city, d’Albertis then began to frequent the group of explorers and naturalists who had gathered around the Marquis Giacomo Doria; for his part he tried to make himself useful to the research by performing analyzes of the seas, fish and plants he came across during his travels. An explorer, but also a scientist at home, he conducted excavation campaigns with Arturo Issel in some of the many caves of which Liguria was and still is scattered.