18:00 PM

Byrd Diary Found in Archives


     COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Exactly 70 years after famed explorer 
Admiral Richard E. Byrd claimed to have been the first to fly 
over the North Pole, Ohio State University archivists announced 
that they'd found Byrd's diary which gives the clearest picture 
yet of what happened during that famous flight.

     While Byrd has long been credited as being the first to 
reach the pole, some scholars dispute that claim.  Some suggest 
he never reached the pole during his flight.  Some have argued 
that Byrd simply took off and flew around long enough to have 
made the trip to the pole and then returned.

     The newly found diary shows conclusively that Byrd believed 
he had actually reached the pole at the time of the flight.  But 
a review of the material by one outside expert also suggests Byrd 
never reached his goal.

     The diary, a weathered 8-by-9-inch brown notebook, was 
hidden among the Byrd materials maintained by Ohio State.  Chief 
archivist Raimund Goerler found the diary while searching through 
a box of artifacts in the collection.

     Goerler thinks the diary is significant in several ways:

     -- It offers proof that Byrd thought he had reached the 
North Pole at the time of the flight  Because of the noise in the 
plane's cabin, all communication was written in the diary and 
passed between Byrd and his pilot, Floyd Bennett, the only people 
on the flight.

     -- The diary also describes the preparations Byrd made for 
his flight, as well as personal observations about other 
explorers of the time -- Donald MacMillan and Roald Amundsen.  
Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, was preparing to fly a dirigible 
over the North Pole at the same time Byrd was attempting his 
flight.  Amundsen reached the pole on May 12.

     -- Byrd used the same diary to record the flight he made a 
year later (1927) across the Atlantic Ocean only 40 days after 
Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot to make the 
transatlantic crossing.

     Byrd and Bennett flew north from Kingsbay, Spitzbergen, on 
May 9, 1926, aboard a Fokker trimotor aircraft, the Josephine 
Ford.  He intended to drop hundreds of small American flags as he 
passed over the pole, marking it in hopes that Amundsen would 
confirm his accomplishment when the Norwegian reached the pole a 
few days later.

     Byrd's notes in the diary indicated that he thought he and 
Bennett were within 20 miles of the pole just before one of the 
plane's engines developed an oil leak.  Some time after that, 
Bennett and Byrd turned the plane around and headed back to 
Spitzbergen.  For some reason, Byrd did not drop the flags at the 
pole as he had intended, and his claims of having reached the 
pole were weakened by that failure.

     Shortly after Byrd Center archivist Goerler discovered the 
diary, he contacted Dennis Rawlins, an independent researcher who 
who has written extensively on Admiral Byrd, inviting him to Ohio 
State to inspect the notebook and analyze the evidence it 
contained.  Rawlins has previously argued that the explorer had 
failed in his mission.

     In his lengthy report to the university, Rawlins concluded 
that any suggestion that Byrd tried to deceive the public with 
the flight "now appears most likely to be false."  Goerler 
agrees saying that the idea that Byrd just took off and flew 
around Spitzbergen instead of heading to the pole is clearly 

     Rawlins called the finding of the diary "one of the most 
remarkable discoveries in the history of polar archival 
research," and commended the university for its openness in 
making the new find available for study by scholars.

     The Byrd collection consists of two acquisitions, the first 
in 1985 and the second in 1990, and fills 523 cubic feet of 
space. one of the largest collections of polar records in the 
world.  The Byrd Polar Research Center on campus was named for 
the late explorer as a lasting memorial at the time the 
collection came to Ohio State.


Contact:  Raimund Goerler, university archivist, (614)292-2409; 
Ken Jezek, director of the Byrd Polar Research Center, (614) 292-
6531); or Dennis Rawlins, (410) 889-1414.

[Submitted by: Von Reid-Vargas (ereid@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu)
Thu, 9 May 1996 12:10:41 -0400]
All documents are the responsibility of their originator.