A static hero is a public liability. Progress grows out of motion… Richard E. Byrd


In an age when any exploration was a still uncertain task Richard Evelyn Byrd managed to command expeditions that flew over both the North and South Poles. This book covers his first expedition to Antarctica and while it is a thorough reassessment of the boy’s best tales version that was promoted by Byrd and his supporters it in no way diminishes the accomplishments. With cold weather gear that the average person wouldn’t wear skiing and flying largely by dead reckoning – in an atmosphere that has been likened to flying through a bowl of milk – and having nearly succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning trying to stay warm they succeeded. They did it with Ford airplanes and without GPS. They did it in spite of some members of the party getting lost on flights and in spite of having to rescue one member of the expedition nearly drowned when the ice he was standing on collapsed into the sea. Byrd thought he was going to discover a continent at the North Pole – which he didn’t – but he went south and did and came back to tell the tale and promote polar exploration for another quarter of a century. No wonder he was honored by every president from Hoover to Eisenhower and respected by the nation.

Commander Richard E. Byrd, USN Arrives on the dock at San Pedro, California, accompanied by his dog "Igloo". He would soon board a ship that will take him to the scene of the beginning of his first Antarctic Expedition, 11 October 1928.   U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Commander Richard E. Byrd, USN Arrives on the dock at San Pedro, California, accompanied by his dog “Igloo”. He would soon board a ship that will take him to the scene of the beginning of his first Antarctic Expedition, 11 October 1928. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Beyond the barrier: the story of Byrd’s first expedition to Antarctica Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, c1990 Eugene Rodgers Byrd Antarctic Expedition (1st: 1928-1930) Hardcover. xiv, 354 p., [16] p. of plates: ill.; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 333-338) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Commander Richard E. Byrd, USN Dressed in furs, with his dog "Igloo", outside a hut during his first Antarctic Expedition, 12 April 1930. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Commander Richard E. Byrd, USN Dressed in furs, with his dog “Igloo”, outside a hut during his first Antarctic Expedition, 12 April 1930. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

When this book originally appeared in 1990, it was hailed as an important new work because of the author’s access to Adm. Richard E. Byrd’s just-released private papers. Previous books on the legendary polar explorer had to rely on sources subject to the admiral’s vigilant censorship or the control of his heirs and friends. With this study Eugene Rodgers provides a scrupulously honest and objective account of Byrd’s 1929 expedition to Antarctica.

Elbert J. Thawley, engineer of the "Eleanor Bolling," standing beside the fuselage of the huge tri-motored Ford plane "Floyd Bennett," before the ship was transported to Little America, the permanent base of the party

Elbert J. Thawley, engineer of the “Eleanor Bolling,” standing beside the fuselage of the huge tri-motored Ford plane “Floyd Bennett,” before the ship was transported to Little America, the permanent base of the party

Without discrediting the expedition’s success or Byrd’s leadership, Rodgers shows that the admiral was not the saintly hero he and the press depicted. Nor was the expedition without its problems. Interviews with surviving members of the expedition together with a wealth of other new material indicate that Byrd, contrary to his claims, was not a good navigator – his pilots usually had to find their way by dead reckoning – and that he was not on the actual flight that discovered Marie Byrd Land. The book further reveals a crisis among the men, the admiral’s fear of mutiny, and his rewriting of news stories from the pole to embellish his own image.

Richard E. Byrd, USN Eating in his shack at Little America, Antarctica, circa late October 1934. He was rescued earlier that month from his advance base, where he had been in isolation for a little bit longer than two months. This picture was taken before he had his hair cut...   U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Richard E. Byrd, USN Eating in his shack at Little America, Antarctica, circa late October 1934. He was rescued earlier that month from his advance base, where he had been in isolation for a little bit longer than two months. This picture was taken before he had his hair cut… U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Byrd should be remembered as the start of that long line of naval aviators who not only defended this country but expanded its horizons from his flying over the Poles through Neil Armstrong‘s setting foot on the moon. It is a proud and noble lineage.

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