Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole
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It was the 1920s. The main players in this high stakes game were Richard Byrd, a dashing Navy officer and early aviation pioneer; and Roald Amundsen, a Viking in the sky, bitter rival of Byrd’s and a hardened veteran of polar expeditions. Each man was determined to be the first aviator to fly over the North Pole, despite brutal weather conditions, financial disasters, world wars, and their own personal demons. Byrd and Amundsen’s epic struggle for air primacy ended in a Homeric episode, in which one man had to fly to the rescue of his downed nemesis, and left behind an enduring mystery: who was the first man to fly over the North Pole?
Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole is a fast-paced, larger-than-life adventure story from Sheldon Bart, the only historian with unprecedented access to Richard Byrd’s personal archives. With powerful, never-before-seen evidence of the race to pioneer one of Earth’s last true frontiers, Race to the Top of the World is a story of a day when men were heroes and the wild was untamed.
say, “I thought I told you not to come on out here from Oklahoma.” Along about midday, Vincent Astor’s yacht, the Nourmahal, approached the pier. Aboard were Richard Byrd, his brothers, Governor Harry and apple-grower Tom Byrd, numerous friends and acquaintances, Navy Yard officials, Shipping Board officials, and, apart from Edsel Ford who was otherwise engaged, almost everyone who had made the expedition possible, from money men like John D. Rockefeller Jr. to media wheels George Palmer Putnam
lighthouse they had encountered a couple of hours earlier. That he found it again suggests the America had at least reached the vicinity of Paris. One can only navigate from a known position. For a heavy object traveling at fifty or sixty miles an hour, water can be a deceptively hard and resistant surface. Bernt Balchen had made numerous water landings with floatplanes, but putting an aircraft equipped with wheels down on the choppy sea was something neither he nor his companions nor any
reappearance, he gave up the idea of doing any aerial exploration in 1925. Instead, he and Worsley would explore under sail. They would mount a voyage to the waters between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land and conduct a search for Gillis Land, an island reported by a Captain Gillis in 1707 and never seen before or since. They embarked on June 22. The way was now clear for the American expedition to find and claim Harris Land. Thousands of well-wishers poured into the slumbering river town of
of the sun is an indicator of direction. Similarly, before clocks were invented, direction, in a certain sense, served as an indicator of time. In the northern hemisphere, the gnomon, the shadow-casting marker of a sundial, always faces true north. During daylight hours, so long as the dial is inclined for the latitude of the site and the sun is shining, the shadow will show you the position of the sun relative to true north, or, in other words, the correct time. The sun compass is a steering
Green in confidence that Dick Byrd’s dream was to be governor of Virginia and that he “definitely made that statement to Schur.” (Green thought MacMillan’s views were so off-the-wall he dictated a memorandum on the conversation immediately after the explorer left his office.) Byrd was a smart man, and on August 20 he made a strong appeal, but it was too late. There would be no further flights across Smith Sound. MacMillan dismissed Byrd’s appeal as political grandstanding. With exemplary