Thursday, January 22, 2004

TO THE POLE: THE DIARY AND NOTEBOOK OF RICHARD E. BYRD 1925-1927

TO THE POLE: THE DIARY AND NOTEBOOK OF RICHARD E. BYRD 1925-1927 This is a review of a book edited by Raimund E. Goerler. It is reviewed by Michael Lorenzen.

From the review:

In 1996, Ohio State University archivist Raimund Goerler discovered a previously unknown diary and notebook of Richard Byrd while cataloging a collection of Byrd's papers. This slim volume (166 pages) is the result of that discovery. The diary had been used by Byrd from 1925-1927 to record his controversial flight to the North Pole. Many have questioned whether Byrd actually accomplished this feat and this diary sheds more light on the controversy.

In 1926 Byrd announced that he and his copilot Floyd Bennett had flown over the North Pole. This had never been done before. This claim was questioned at the time because many did not believe that Byrd's airplane could have reached the pole and returned in less than sixteen hours that Byrd claimed. After Byrd's death, it was reported that Bennett confessed that he and Byrd had only flown out of sight, circled around, and then returned when enough time had passed to seem plausible. Further, a meteorologist calculated that Byrd would have needed a favorable wind to make to the flight in the time he did and that such a wind was lacking on the date of the flight.

Interspersed throughout the text of the book are entries from Byrd's diary. This includes Byrd's account of the controversial North Pole Flight. After reading this account, one has to ask whether or not Byrd accurately recorded events or if he deliberately fabricated the entries in the diary. As Byrd never attempted to publish this dairy, it would appear this is an accurate account.

In addition to the text of the diary, Goerler has written five chapters detailing Byrd's life. This includes information on his early life, the Greenland Expedition of 1925, the North Pole Flight of 1926, and the Transatlantic Flight of 1927, and Byrd's life from 1927 until his death in 1957. The book also has the text of the report of the North Pole Flight that Byrd submitted to the National Geographic Society and to the Secretary of the Navy. A chronology of Byrd's life and bibliography are also included. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index.

Richard Byrd lead an interesting life. This recounting of his life, as well as the indepth examinations of several of his expeditions (including the controversial North Pole Flight), make for excellent reading. The thinness of the volume also allows for the book to be read in only a few short sittings.

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