Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Alone on the Ice Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Further Reading

Joseph Hill on: Travelling to Antarctica
Joseph Hill Q: Why was it so important for you to go to Antarctica with Byrd? Why did you want to go with him?

JH: Well, I wanted to go with Byrd, simply because [he] was Byrd. He had just flown the Atlantic and then had just flown over the South Pole, and lectured in a neighboring town, Amarillo, Texas. He had taken Paul Siple, our well known Boy Scout, and Byrd was pretty much my idol as were the Lindberghs and all the other famous flyers. After he said he was going to go on another expedition when he could get it together. And I applied for the job. That was in 1931, I think.

Q: Can you describe your trip down to Antarctica? What were you doing on the ride down to Antarctica? What was your role and your experience with Admiral Byrd.

JH: Well, my role on the two ships when the Bear of Oakland sailed from Boston Harbor Navy Yard, they needed a second cook. And so Dr. Shiree said, Joe, I ought to go back a minute and say that I was notified after that meeting with Byrd that I could come along as a member of the crew of the ships. Ice parties and so forth to be selected later. And of course I jumped at the chance. Well, when the Bear got ready to sail they needed a second cook. So Dr. Shiree said, Joe, why don't you go on the Bear as the second cook. So I signed on as a second cook, Lord help them. We got down off of Cape Hatteras, and we hit a hurricane and the Bear foundered, almost went down. We had to be towed in by the Coast Guard. We bailed water all night and so on, into Newport News. While we were waiting to be refitted, the Rupert came in to pick up supplies, and the airplanes and some things there at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The Admiral, through Shiree of course, sent word that I should come over and be his cabin boy, his mess boy, his aide, whatever you want to call it. So I jumped at that chance. Then for the next four months, of course, all the way on down to the Antarctic, which was the first week in January when we started unloading, I was intimately associated every day with, with the Admiral.

Q: How did you find out you were going to stay on the ice, and what was your reaction?

JH: Most of the ice party had been selected before the departure from, as the expedition was forming. All the scientific crew and so on. But there were some of us in the support functions that didn't know until the last week that we had or had not been selected to stay on the ice party and winter over the winter night. And it was during that last week, during the unloading that I knew I was finally selected. However, about three weeks or so, and the memory is getting a little skinny now, but it was a few weeks before we landed, Admiral Byrd told me one day. He says, Joe, I'm thinking of keeping you on the ice party. And of course again I was just in heaven.

back to Interview Transcripts | next

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 1999 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: