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Eugene Rodgers on: Being Stranded on the Ice
Eugene Rodgers Q: How close did the expedition come to staying on the ice and why and how panicked was Byrd about that?

ER: Byrd's expedition was due to be picked up by his ships and taken back to civilization in the spring of 1930. The ships had to get through the ice pack that surrounded Antarctica. And that year the ice pack was stronger and thicker and wider than usual. The ships had a hard time getting through. In fact, even the whalers in their big steel ships weren't sure they could get through. At least one whaler was sunk in the pack ice. So it really looked for a while as if Byrd's ships couldn't get through to pick him up and he would have to spend another winter there. Of course for Byrd this was disastrous. That it would diminish the impact of his expedition and he was counting on a big impact to make the big bucks to pay off the expedition and to make his own profit and to finance future expeditions. He had things to do. Other men had their lives to live. And they didn't want to spend another year there. And without a strong goal like the science, and particularly the flight to the South Pole and the flights of geographical discovery they had no mission. Byrd had all these young men with nothing to do. He knew and others knew that it would be a rough time. There would be fights, there would be boredom, there might be mutiny. Byrd did not want to stay another winter. And he begged the whalers to pick them up in their ships. When they finally got through he said you must come and get to Little America because we have sick men here who need to be picked up. Well there weren't men that were, that were that sick but he said that to entice the whalers there. He got his people back home to put political pressure on the whaling companies to order their ships down there. Finally the man who ran Byrd's stateside office found millionaires and other people who were willing to foot the bill to pay the whalers the money that they would lose by rescuing Byrd. So when the whalers did finally get through the pack ice they agreed to pick up Byrd's expedition. And Byrd did finally get out. But it was touch and go for a while. There was a big national story at the time. Byrd's Antarctic expedition stranded on the ice, a big story.

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