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Lisle Rose on: The Controversy of the North Pole Flight
Lisle Rose 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.

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