Q: Byrd asked Bernt to be the pilot on the South Pole, why did he ask him?
BESS: Byrd decided that Bernt Balchen would be the pilot. He had seen my
husband's skills in the out of doors and he was a survivor and he was an
excellent skier and he knew how to handle practically every situation and he
was always prepared for the worst. So, that's why they chose him.
Q: In what way did Bernt save the day on the South Pole flight - what
happened? They got into very dangerous circumstances, right?
BESS: The plane didn't gain enough height to get over the mountains and then
they had to dump stuff, as you know and they dumped the food rather than the
gasoline because they couldn't fly back on sandwiches. So, that's what
Q: Did Byrd and Bernt like each other? Why were they together?
BESS: I think that Admiral Byrd needed Bernt Balchen on the South Pole
Expedition. He was impressed with his abilities and I don't think it was ever
a very warm feeling between them, definitely not in the later years. Bernt
Balchen always did his best to keep a good relationship but that didn't work
out in the long run because of what Admiral Byrd did to him.
Q: In his accounts of the South Pole flight, did Byrd give Bernt Balchen
credit for his role, for what he had done for his flying ability.
BESS: After the South Pole flight Byrd gave Bernt Balchen credit for what he
had done, definitely.
Q: How key a role was Bernt's role in the South Pole flight?
BESS: Bernt Balchen figured all the logistics of the flight and what the well
everything. And of course, you know, Harold June was on the flight and he
relieved Bernt in the cockpit but Bernt Balchen probably did most of the work,
no question about it. When they came back to Little America, Bernt Balchen
offered Byrd a log from the trip and Byrd said he didn't want it.
Q: Was Bernt treated like a hero after the South Pole flight? How did his
reception compare to Richard Byrd's?
BESS: Well, the reception that Bernt Balchen got after the South Pole wasn't
exactly what he had hoped for. He got a paper that he had no right to be in
the U.S. because he had overstayed his Visa or something. And that's when
lots of his friends, known and unknown got together and got him his