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Admiral Byrd

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In 1928, Admiral Richard E. Byrd embarked on an expedition to be the first to fly over the South Pole. To the American public, Byrd had gained a reputation as an aviation pioneer. And explorer of extreme lands. He'd been credited in 1926 with being the first to fly over the North Pole. accompanied by pilot Floyd Bennet. Byrd and a crew of 42 men sailed aboard the "New York", and landed at a area known as the Ross Ice Shelf. They carried provisions for 15 months, and set up a base they christened "Little America". Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth, with an average temprature of minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the interior. In this frigid land, day and night don't exist. In late September day breaks over the land, and the sun gradually rises until it hits its apex around December 21st, then begins to set. From late March on, the continent experiences perpetual night. To survive this extreme climate, Byrd's crew took their cues from natives of the Arctic. They wore parkas, pants, and boots made from reindeer hide. Byrd himself was partial to his pair of polar bear pants. In the late 1920's, most of Antarctica remained unexplored, and Byrd aimed to fill in the large tracts of unknown on the map by flying over them in his planes. His exploration claimed large tracts of the Antarctic for the United States. On November 28, 1929, they set off with their main goal of the Southern Pole in a heavily laden Ford tri-motor airplane, the "Floyd Bennet", in homage to his deceased co-pilot and friend. Being so close to the South Pole, their magnetic compasses were useless, so they relied on a sun compass for direction. They flew across the Ross Ice Shelf and into mountain ranges. At times, the forceful air currents tossed the plane like a cork. Weight was always a concern. The lighter the plane, the higher it could fly. At one point, they threw overboard 300 pounds of food and numerous fuel containers to clear an 11,000 foot mountain pass. Just after midnight they reached the South Pole, where Byrd dropped a small American flag, and they returned to base. They spent about 19 hours on the trip, and incredibly with no mishaps. Throughout his life, the Antarctic had a hold on Admiral Byrd. In the following decades, he would make four more expeditions to the region, in the name of science and exploration.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 38 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 86
Posted by: greenbo on Apr 24, 2010

How the explorer just barely managed to reach the South Pole

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