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Joseph Hill on: Byrd's Decision to go to Advance Base Alone
Joseph Hill Q: When did you first learn about advance base and what did you think the original plan was for it?

JH: Well, I first heard about it on the ship in the Admiral's cabin boy role. But it was simply talked about as an advance base to do weather research and observe the heavens and the aurora and so on. And was always at that point thought of as a three man base, as far as I know. You've got to remember I was low man on the totem pole, and only heard the, had no specific conversations about it, other than that we had to get that done.


Q: Why do you think Byrd decided to go alone?

JH: Well, I think that Byrd decided to go alone simply because of the necessity to do so. I talked about the dangers of Little America floating out and we had to establish a relief supply base, and that just kept cutting down on the time that we had to establish advance base. It had to be done before the winter night set in. So it just became apparent I believe, that it was impossible to transport enough supplies and enough distance that we had to transport it. Remember it was originally planned to go down at the, clear down to the Queen Maud range. And as it was we had to abandon that plan and establish it a little over a 100 miles due, right down the Meridian from Little America.


Q: Were you surprised by his decision to go alone? Do you think it was responsible for him to go alone, or do you think he was the best candidate for this type of mission to go alone?

JH: I don't remember a great deal of discussion in my conversations about whether it was a good idea or not. Those decisions were made at the executive group level, the Novell, the June's, the Poulter's, the Murphy's and so on made those decisions. And the Admiral always made the final one. I am sure, but I don't remember it much, I'm sure there must have been some discussion about whether he should go alone or not. Because they had had that discussion in the executive committee where the decisions were being made. But it was not a divisive subject.


Q: Do you think he was well prepared? What kind of skills did he have as a radio man for instance? Do you think he was well prepared to spend six months alone in the winter nights down in the cabin?

JH: I think that the skills of most importance to undertake that task he was very well skilled. As far as you ask about his radio ability, he took a cram course just a short time before going down there, and learned to use the, the key, and things like that. He was no expert radioman by a long shot. But I think he was better equipped than any other man in camp, by far. Particularly I think he was psychologically equipped to assume the challenge and do the job.


Q: Take us back to the moment where the tractor's leaving him alone at advance base. What are you thinking? Are you worried about him?

JH: Worry is not in the vocabulary much in those circumstances, simply because a job has to be done and, and all the preparation work possible had been done to make it a safe venture. And the risk was, kind of went with the territory. Yes, we were concerned. But and the ultimate faith we just knew that it would be successful.


Q: Can you describe Byrd's cabin? What was it like.

JH: The advance base was a cubicle. I've forgotten the dimensions. It was about 10 x 12 x 7 or 8 or something like that. Entered the entrance from a hatch door up through the surface. The house was put down in it, sunk down in a pit about four feet deep. Foundation was made of cross-ties. The house was erected in sections that had been built state side for ease of assembly under our cold harsh conditions. Able to assemble the house after we got started in about a day and a half, something like that as I recall. Well insulated of course. Had a small cooking stove, heating stove. Had generators for electric power supply.

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