Little Bits of History

Going South

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 29, 2012

The first fly-over of the South Pole

November 29, 1929: The first fly-over at the South Pole takes place. Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Jr. was a naval officer and an avid explorer. He was also a navigator in early aircraft flights. He served in the US Navy during both World Wars. On May 9, 1926, Byrd and Floyd Bennett took a flight in a Fokker F-VII Tri-motor. Their trip was from Spitsbergen and back. The two claimed to have flown over the North Pole. Both were hailed as heroes. In 1958, Bernt Balchen cast doubt upon the feasibility of such an undertaking. Byrd’s diary was released in 1996 and the data included is different from the official report. It is still unknown if the duo actually reached the North Pole on that day. If not, Roald Amundsen and his crew made the trip just three days later.

Byrd next tried to cross the Atlantic in a specially modified plane. There was a contest afoot for the first to fly non-stop from the US to France. On a practice flight, the plane crashed and Bennett, once again the pilot, was severely injured. Byrd, slightly hurt, was still intent on getting across the Pond. While their plane was being repaired, Charles Lindbergh won the prize. Byrd, with a new pilot, still wanted to make the trip. They plane took off from East Garden City, New York on June 29, 1927 and made it to France. However, due to heavy cloud cover, they could not land in Paris and made a crash-landing in Normandy on July 1. No one was injured.

Byrd next took off for Antarctica. In 1928, with two ships and three planes at his command, he left for the great south siren. The race for the South Pole was as hot for that of the North. A base camp was set up on the Ross Ice Shelf and scientific expeditions were launched from that site. There were many ways to travel across the ice: snowshoe, dog-sled, snowmobile, and airplane.  All were used and photographs were taken of the wonderful landscapes. Geological data was collected. Constant radio communication was kept up throughout the summer. As winter approached, they hunkered down for the cold season.

With the next balmy summer, expeditions resumed. On this day, Byrd was in the plane with Bernt Balchen as pilot and with Harold June as co-pilot/radioman. Ashley McKinley was the photographer for the flight. The plane was a ford Trimotor and the flight lasted for 18 hours and 41 minutes. They had difficulty with maintaining altitude and had to dump any extraneous supplies to gain the Polar Plateau. They were successful and this time there was no doubt. They continued to explore for the rest of the arctic summer and returned home on June 18, 1930.

A static hero is a public liability. Progress grows out of motion.

Few men during their lifetime comes anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used.

I paused to listen to the silence. My breath, crystallized as it passed my cheeks, drifted on a breeze gentler than a whisper. The wind vane pointed toward the South Pole.

My frozen breath hung like a cloud overhead. The day was dying, the night being born — but with great peace. Here were the imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. – all from Richard E. Byrd, Jr.

Also on this day:

Warren Commission formed – In 1963 the Warren Commission was formed to investigate President Kennedy’s assassination.
Phonetic – In 1877, Thomas Edison demonstrated his phonograph.
Zong – In 1781, the Zong Massacre took place.

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3 Responses

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  1. orpheusword said, on November 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Love anything to do with history.

    Have you had a look at my blog!

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