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Raimond Goerler on: Bernt Balchen's Contributions
Raimond Goerler Q: Can you describe Bernt Balchen? and what role did he plan in the North Pole flight and why would he held his competitor?

RG: Bernt Balchen is an extremely able aviator, he's an officer in the Norwegian Air Corps. He has familial connection to Amundsen. And is helpful to Amundsen in 1925, helping with the rescue operation. He's also, I think, disappointed because it's decided that Balchen is not to go on the Norge with Amundsen. Balchen proves to be very helpful to Byrd. They have problems with their skis, that is of making the skis strong enough. Balchen has lots of experience with airplanes with skis in the Norwegian Air Air Force and he provides this expertise to Byrd. Amundsen publicly is saying you know we're not competitors we are all partners in this quest. And then however, Byrd's diary records that Amundsen is telling Balchen not to come near Byrd and one can only suspect that Byrd has that information from Balchen.


Q: What's happening with the skis when they're trying to take off? Before Balchen comes in and helps, it looks like he's not going to make it.

RG: There are problems with the Josephine Ford's landing gear from the very beginning. First the plane is overloaded, it crashes, Byrd lightens the load, it's still not enough, he still has problems with the skis. Balchen and the ship's carpenter help to fashion special skis using the oars of the life boats, after all there's not a lot of wood in that area. And they strengthen the skis enough so that there's a successful takeoff. Balchen also advises Byrd that the best time to take off is late at night when the temperatures are cold, the runway that they've created out of this pounded snow is iced over and is slicker. Because if it warms up during the day, you get the sunlight creates slush and he'll have problems, it will be a slower takeoff than they want.

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