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South Pole Flight


From left, Harold June, Byrd,
and Ashley McKinley, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7773_14.



"With Byrd at the South Pole,"
1930 Paramount Pictures Corporation,
1992 Milestone Film and Video

On November 29, the Floyd Bennett took off from Little America with Byrd as navigator, pilot Bernt Balchen, radio operator Harold June, and photographer Ashley McKinley.  The plane was loaded with camera, food, and fuel.  All items were weighed carefully and considered before loading, as all of this weight seriously reduced the plane's performance.  Even with this carefully planning, the plane struggled as it neared the mountains.  The difficult decision to throw part of the load from the plane was made.   The choice was food or fuel.  Byrd decided that the food would go, so they dumped one bag of food, and then another.  Finally, the plane cleared the mountain.  On November 29, the Floyd Bennett circled the South Pole.  Byrd dropped the flag of the United States, weighted with a stone from the grave of Floyd Bennett.  Then the party returned to the fuel depot at Mount Nansen, and returned to Little America. 



Albert Bumstead showing Byrd how to use
the sun compass, ca. 1925,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7710_5.

 



Bumstead Sun Compass, ca. 1920s,
designed by Albert Bumstead of the
National Geographic Society,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, Box 449. 
The sun compass was an essential navigation
tool, and designed specifically for Byrd. 

 


Dead Reckoning for Polar Flight, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5346. 
Dead reckoning is the navigational process of estimating your position by advancing a known position using course, speed, time and distance to be traveled.  In other words, figuring out where you will be at a certain time if you hold the speed, time and course you plan to travel (Source:  www.dirauxannex.org/Nav1.html).

 


Byrd in the library of Little America,
prior to the South Pole flight, with a stone
from Floyd Bennett's grave, 1929. 
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7778_1. 
Byrd dropped the stone, wrapped in the small
American flag, from the plane when they were
over the South Pole, in honor of his pilot of
the North Pole expedition of 1926. 


Chart, Consumption Cruising Speed, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5346. 
The weight of the plane and all supplies on board was of concern.  Byrd and the flight crew knew that the performance of the plane was directly related to its weight.  Even with this careful planning, part of the load still had to be thrown overboard in order to get the plane above the mountains.

 
"If we can't we will have to dump some load," handwritten note from the South Pole Flight,
November 29, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5346. 
The weight of the airplane was of serious concern
as they approached the mountains.  In fact, they did have to dump some load, and sent bags of food overboard to lighten the airplane.


Must Soon Turn North, handwritten note from the South Pole Flight, November 29, 1929,

Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5346. 
The noise in the plane was so loud,
the men communicated with notes.
 


Engine Log for Polar Flight,
by Bernt Balchen, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5346.


South Pole Flight Log, November 29, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5346. 
The entry for 1400 hours indicates that they have reached the vicinity of the South Pole.


Chart of Route Flown by Rear Admiral
Richard Evelyn Byrd from Little America to
the South Pole, on Nov. 28-29, 1929,
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #5344. 
This chart is from the report presented by
Byrd to the National Geographic Society.
 

Over the hump, the South Polar plane over
the head of the pass of Liv's Glacier
on the way to the Pole, 1929,

Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7753_3

Altitude about 10,500 feet. The top of

Mount Nansen, at left, is 15,000 feet high. 
 


The crevasses at Latitude 82 degrees
12 south, 1929. 
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7753_4.


Pressure ridge on Bay of Whales
near Little America, 1929. 
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7754_6.
 


Pressure ridges, with Little America
in the background, 1929. 
Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7754_10.


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