TO THE POLE: THE DIARY AND NOTEBOOK OF RICHARD E. BYR-RAIMUND E. GOERLER

  • Title: TO THE POLE: THE DIARY AND NOTEBOOK OF RICHARD E. BYR
  • Author: RAIMUND E. GOERLER
  • Released: 1998-02-01
  • Language:
  • Pages: 161
  • ISBN: 0814208002
  • ISBN13: 978-0814208007
  • ASIN: 0814208002

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Around the turn of the 20th century, polar exploration became the symbol of national pride and individual worth. Ernest Shackleton, Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen, and Robert Peary, among others, ensured themselves a place in history for their daring assaults on two of the most inhospitable regions on earth: the North and South Poles. In the course of their explorations, these men pitted themselves against a merciless landscape--Shackleton's ship was crushed in Antarctic ice; Scott and four companions died in a howling blizzard on their way back from the South Pole. If walking to the Poles was difficult, flying there presented its own set of problems. Yet, in 1926 Admiral Richard E. Byrd and his pilot, Floyd Bennett, set out to fly over the North Pole. According to Byrd, they succeeded. In the decades since this feat, a shadow of doubt has crept over Byrd's claim. Critics question whether Byrd could have flown to the Pole and back in the amount of time that actually elapsed between his takeoff and return to Spitsbergen, Greenland; allegations that Byrd's calculations were incorrect bolstered hearsay gossip that Bennett had told another pilot that they'd never reached the Pole.

More than 70 years later, new evidence, in the form of a rediscovered diary of Admiral Byrd, throws fresh fuel on the flames of controversy. Raimund E. Goerler, an archivist at Ohio State University, discovered Byrd's handwritten account of the flight in 1996, but rather than laying all doubt to rest once and for all, the diary only serves to further muddy the waters. There are, for example, the suspicious erasures of calculations--innocent errors or a deliberate attempt to fudge the data? In To the Pole, Goerler offers up both Byrd's journal and the opinions of experts on both sides of the controversy in this evenhanded treatment of a historical puzzle.

From First to fly over the North Pole--or was he? Some experts have challenged Byrd's accolades as a polar explorer, doubting that he actually reached the North Pole in his 1926 flight. This diary, unearthed in 1994, might be thought to clear up the matter, but instead it complicates them. Editor Goerler found several erasures of calculations in the diary--evidence of Byrd fudging his navigational measurements, or innocent corrections? Whatever the case, the riskiness of polar exploration comes through in Byrd's diary and notes, which mention coming through storms and icebergs, as well as allude to the fate of Robert Scott, who perished in the race to the South Pole with Roald Amundsen (who perished in the race with Byrd to overfly the North Pole). A concluding section discusses Byrd's competition with Lindbergh to be the first flier across the Atlantic. Goerler's editorial matter summarizes Byrd's career and orients readers toward the bibliography of Arctic exploration, a good example of which is Across the Top of the World by David Fisher (1992). Gilbert Taylor

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