Q: What makes people suspicious that Byrd actually made it to the pole?|
LR: Well, there was basically the time differential. He would have had to be
in the air, given the speed that he was going, at least 16, maybe even 17 hours
to have made it up to the North Pole. The problem is compounded by the fact
which he readily admitted of a fuel leak that slowed the plane down even
further. Now what he claimed was that favorable winds blew him, basically blew
him back from the Pole at a lot faster than the indicated air speed. There's
also a disappearance of records, the feeling that the National Geographic had
covered up the failures in the flight. There's a growing consensus now that he
certainly made a noble effort, but that he probably missed the Pole by
anywhere from 75 to 150 miles. I tend, generally to assume that he probably
got within about a 100, 120 miles of the Pole, and there's some feeling that he
was high enough at the time so that he could look ahead and see where that
mythical, kind of mythical or vague geographic point was, and satisfy himself
that basically what he was seeing at the North Pole was what he was seeing
right underneath him. There was nothing new about it. Though of course, Peary
had supposedly and some people think that Cook had been there already. So
there really wasn't anything new to see in the first place. But that he could
satisfy himself that at least he had seen it.
Q: But you believe he thought he made it or was close enough? You're
willing to give Byrd the benefit of the doubt?
LR: Yes, I think he thought he made it, or that he got so close that as I say
he could look ahead and see. I certainly think and this is the most important
part. I certainly think he made the good faith effort. I think it was a
grueling flight. It was a dangerous flight. It was a gutsy thing to do, and
ah, I think he ought to be, he, [stuttering] that ought to be appreciated.
Whether he actually got to the geographic northern most point on the globe is
another matter. I don't think he did.
Q: With the documentation we have available to us now do you think we can
ever prove for sure that he made it or didn't make it, or?
LR: No. I don't think you will ever know for certain. It's tantalizing, it's
ambiguous. And the documentation we have at the moment is a series of rather
discordant notes that anybody on a long and grueling flight would make. There
are some erasures, but that's understandable too. Navigators make calculations
and then they erase them and make other calculations depending on changes in
drift and speed and direction and so on. So I don't think we're ever going to
know. And to say Dick Byrd didn't make it to the pole or Dick Byrd did make it
to the Pole, I think is too categorical. I don't think you can say that.
back to Interview Transcripts | next