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Raimond Goerler on: Financing the Second Expedition
Raimond Goerler Q: What does Byrd have to do to raise money for the next expedition? It's gone beyond exploration now, isn't he kind of the ultimate commodity?

RG: The second expedition is a lot more challenging than the first. It takes place in the worst of the Great Depression. He comes back in 1930. The second expedition begins in 1933. He's got tremendous problems raising donations and worse. He has the problem of his own success because well Paramount Pictures helped with the financing of the first expedition. They're extremely reluctant to do a second picture in advance money for the expedition. The problems of the classic Hollywood Tale - we've done it once, it can't be done better so we don't want to invest our money. Paramount is like everybody else, in the Great Depression and they're very concerned about not wasting money and the need for an attention grabber is absolutely critical.


Q: So, what does he do about that? Why does he feel compelled to go back there - is he on a hero treadmill or is it his job? Does he want to discover more territory?

RG: Well, Byrd wants to go back for his Second Expedition because he has become like Peary, before him a professional explorer. This is his mission in life, this is what he's good at and this is an arena of continuing accomplishments. One of the rationales for the Second Expedition is that they could do a lot more science, on the Second Expedition, than they could on the first. They already have an established base and so science is always a good reason for the polar exploration but science usually is not very dramatic and the South Pole flight had already been done. Lincoln Ellsworth had already proposed and was in the process of trying to accomplish a Trans-Continental flight across Antarctica. And Paramount was very skeptical that an investment with Byrd at this time would pay off financially.


Q: So, what does he have to do in order to get this thing off the ground?

RG: Well, what he does is he manages to persuade Paramount to invest. He also continues a contract with Current News for exclusives. He also does something extremely unusual, he makes an arrangement with a U.S. Post Office to sell postal covers from Little America, and eventually raised more than $30,000 selling stamps. But all the contracts for media coverage are very important. He promises Paramount that there's going to be drama at Advance Base by having a base in the interior of Antarctica to do meteorological observations. No one had ever wintered in the interior of Antarctica before. This would have been a first, with some scientific results and this is presented to Paramount as a perspective drama. Most revealingly he tells Paramount that he's planning two people in Advance Base. In his book about the experience alone, Byrd maintains that two was never the thought, that it was always planned for three but that for logistical reasons, problems of weather, of moving supplies out that the hut could only accommodate one and he as the leader of the expedition had to accept and wanted to accept that responsibility.

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