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Lisle Rose on: Byrd's Ordeal at Advance Base
Lisle Rose Q: What happens to Byrd at advance base physically and spiritually? And you talked about for the first time he lost control?

LR: I think what happened to Dick Byrd at Advance Base was something that he never anticipated. He basically was poisoned for a prolonged period of time by fumes, which he thought were coming from his stove, but in fact were coming from his generator ah, that he used to power his broadcasts and so on. He is very courageous, I think, in many ways in writing about his ordeal. He could have written about it in a much different way. He could have tried to pass himself off as this intrepid person who somehow perseveres. He makes it clear that he got very sick. At one point he said, he talks about kind of lying on his bunk fingering his, his clothing and I gained a little and lost a lot. He makes it clear that he went through a pretty terrible ordeal.

I think the other thing that, that was disturbing about advance base for Byrd was the fact that he lost control of the situation. He doesn't make this at all clear in "Alone." He fudges over this, but ah, there's evidence from other documentation that at one point at least he said, come quick. This was when the advance party was already out on the ice. But he was deteriorating very quickly. And I think it humiliated and embarrassed him that he had to ask for help. I mean this was, his whole persona had been of the person out on the cutting edge of adventure and the frontier, who really didn't need any help. Dick Byrd did it alone. Dick Byrd was, was the great hero. He didn't do it alone but he was the great hero. He had help. But he didn't have assistance. He really was able to orchestrate and control situations of great adventure. And this is his persona. He was the commander. Now all of a sudden he is obviously crippled, not only physically but mentally, by a problem that he cannot fix. He's driven to his bed. He is, at one point wakes up fingering his clothes and mumbling to himself. He writes that, I gained a little and lost a lot. That's a tremendous admission for somebody to make. And so I think he lost a great deal of confidence that he could control his adventures from that time on. Now "Alone" is an absolutely magnificent testimony to the endurance of the human spirit over great adversity. But running between the lines and not very far beneath the lines is this sense of a failure. And that is something that he had never really experienced before. Ah, frustration, yes, for example when he couldn't land in Paris because of the fog. But failure, no.

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