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Raimond Goerler on: The Challenge of the North Pole
Raimond Goerler Q: Why did Byrd take on the challenge of the North Pole? Was he drawn to conquering it? Why was he drawing to conquering it? In what way was it a greeting ground to zeros?

RG: The North Pole has always been a subject of fascination, especially in the 19th century. Several American heroes that Byrd had knowledge of as a child, Elisha Kane, Robert Peoria. These were people who got their fame in North Pole conquest. Byrd looked at the North Pole as an opportunity for the fame that others had also acquired but also as an opportunity to demonstrate this new invention, the airplane and to use the airplane to advance discovery that had of course always been hindered in the North Pole area by floating ice and leaves and the airplane was an opportunity for another instrument, in polar exploration.


Q: How did the North Pole create its share of heroes and legends?

RG: The North Pole is a subject that draws the fascination of the newspaper media especially in the post 1850's. By the 1880's, you actually have newspapers financing expeditions. People want to read about polar heroes. Newspapers also want exclusives and they want regular stories. The telegraph enables the stories to be broadcast to the printers and to be sold on the streets of America's cities. So the polar heroes are cult figures and certainly people like Robert Peary benefited from the cult. They benefited especially financially, maybe newspapers plowed the way for their lecture tours and created great public interest. So, it's not surprising that Byrd would have an interest in polar heroes.


Q: Can you briefly describe the contractual relationship Byrd entered into with David Lawrence over the North Pole flight and isn't this the beginning of Byrd's commoditization of a hero.

RG: Byrd financed the North Pole Expedition privately. He got significant chunks of money from John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford. He got an extraordinary amount of money, a contract of approximately $60,000, in 1926, from current news features in exchange for the exclusive rights to sell stories about the North Pole flight to other news media. And it was a wonderful contract for Byrd in that David Lawrence, not only provided the famous advance, $5,000, upon signing, which enabled him to buy things for the Expedition but also it was a no lose contract because Lawrence would pay him per degrees of latitude accomplished, even if he didn't make it to the North Pole. And this contract also required that no one, no expeditionary member could release photos or stories without the permission of the leader, namely Byrd and current news features. That's very much the pattern for these later privately financed expeditions to seize upon the publicity as a commodity that is used to finance the expeditions.

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