An injury to his ankle suffered in an acrobatic maneuver in the gym finished the promising naval career of Richard Evelyn Byrd, forcing his early retirement from the US Navy. As a retired officer he remained involved in Naval affairs as an inventor and as an internationally known aviator. Eventually Byrd was instrumental in the Navy taking an interest in Naval aviation. In 1924, the US Congress passed special legislation to advance Byrd, a retired officer, to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and he resumed active service with the Navy.
In 1928, Cdr. Byrd began the first of his three expeditions to the Antarctic, utilising two ships and three aeroplanes. Soon scientific expeditions by dog-sled, snowmobile, and airplane began from a base camp which had been established on the Ross Ice Shelf. Photographic expeditions and geological surveys were undertaken for the duration of that summer, and constant radio communications were maintained with the outside world. After their first winter their expeditions were resumed and on November 29, 1929 the famous flight to the South Pole was launched. Byrd, along with pilot Bernt Balchen co-pilot/radioman Harold June and photographer Ashley McKinley flew to the South Pole and back in 18 hours, 41 minutes. They had difficulty gaining altitude, and had to dump empty gas tanks as well as their emergency supplies in order to achieve the altitude of the Polar Plateau. However, the flight was successful, and Byrd entered into the history books. After a further summer of exploration, the expedition was terminated and returned to America.
Byrd made his
way back to New York, arriving on June 18, 1930, and eventually journeyed
back to his home state of Virginia where he was feted as an American Hero.
|My interest in Cdr. Byrd's expedition began when one day last year I came across the broadsheet pictured here for sale at an English on-line store picturing Commander Byrd Being Greeted By Officials At Panama City. I purchased the broadsheet which shows Cdr. Byrd stepping off the Rangitiki in May 1930. The broadsheet is dated 18 May 1930, and the dates tell us that this was on the homeward leg of the Rangitiki's Voyage 3, Mick Overall's second voyage on this ship. There is a wealth of information regarding Commander (later Rear Admiral Byrd on the internet). 4 March 2006 ~ Having corresponded with Dr.David Larson on and off for a while, I decided that this broadsheet would probably more correctly belong in a polar exploration collection; it is now in David's collection.|