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David McCullough, Series Host:: Greetings and welcome to The American Experience. I'm David McCullough.

He was one of the last of the great explorers, an authentic trail-blazer and ticker-tape-parade hero like his friend Lindbergh. Everyone knew about Admiral Richard Byrd in much the same way that, in another generation, everyone knew about John Glenn. The handsome admiral's expeditions to the north and south poles held the nation spellbound, and sold lots of newspapers and books. And no wonder. It was true high adventure, combining the advance of science and extraordinary derring-do in settings almost unimaginably far away, strange, and breath-taking. This is the sort of account he himself wrote. It could set pulses pounding then. It still does.

Reading:

"As the skis of the plane left the snow, I saw my shipmates on the ground jumping, shouting, throwing their hats in the air, wild with joy that we were off to the South Pole. Snow-covered peaks 100 miles away glittered like fire in the sun's reflection."

"What we faced far surpassed the demands of a simple flight of 800 mile to the Pole. ...We would fly over a barren, rolling surface, then climb a mountain rampart and continue across a 10,000-foot plateau... Before us, beyond the great mountains, lay uncertainty."

But then "uncertainty" lay at the heart of everything undertaken by this fiercely determined man. He was of no more than average height, with blue eyes and a splendid physique. At age 40, he could still chin himself with one arm. That he was more complex than he appeared comes as no surprise. It only makes his story all the more interesting.

"Alone on the Ice" by producer Nancy Porter.

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