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Richard Byrd flies over the North Pole… or did he?

Posted in Adventure, Anniversary, Exploration, History on Thursday, 28 April 2011

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9 May marks the anniversary of the first flight over the North Pole in 1926 undertaken by Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr., an American naval officer.

picture, Richard Byrd, North Pole, South Pole, aircraft, ice, penguins

Richard Byrd attempts to follow-up his trip to the North Pole with a flight over the South Pole. Illustration by Graham Coton

Byrd learned to fly during World War I whilst serving with the U.S. Navy. His passion for flying led him to develop techniques for navigating aircraft over open ocean which led to him plotting the flight path of the first ever transatlantic crossing.

In 1926, he and pilot Floyd Bennett attempted a flight over the North Pole in a Fokker F-VII. Taking off from Spitsbergen, an island off the coast of Norway, he claimed to have flown over the Pole before returning to the island. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and secured funding for a similar flight over the South Pole.

However, there have been many doubts cast over the legitimacy of Byrd’s claims. This was exacerbated when Byrds diary was released in 1996 which revealed that sextant readings and other data had been erased and altered and diary entries differed from his official report. It is now thought that Byrd did not reach the pole, based on both data alteration and the speed that would have been required from his aircraft to achieve that goal.

Byrd did later successfully fly over the South Pole, earning his place in the history books.

Many more pictures relating to the North and South Poles can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

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