Richard Evelyn Byrd

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Richard E. Byrd, 1929

Richard Evelyn Byrd (born October 25, 1888 in Winchester , Virginia , † March 11, 1957 in Boston ) was an American polar explorer and rear admiral .

Flight to the North Pole

Bronze - Byrd's bust on a polished larvikite base . Erected by the National Geographic Society at McMurdo Station in 1965

Byrd claimed to have reached the North Pole by air on May 9, 1926 together with Floyd Bennett as the first by plane, a three-engine Fokker , taking off from Ny-Ålesund on Kings Bai on Svalbard . He would have beaten his compatriot Lincoln Ellsworth and the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen by three days, who were heading for the North Pole on board the airship Norge under airship captain Umberto Nobile . Shortly after their return, however, the journalist Odd Arneson in particular had doubts that they had actually been to the North Pole, because the time was too short. A technical examination of the aircraft, carried out by Bernt Balchen , also cast doubts as to the correctness of the claim, since Byrd could never have reached the North Pole due to a navigation error.

Floyd Bennett later even declared, “Byrd and I never got the North Pole”. You would have noticed oil leaks in the engines some time after starting. That's why they flew back to Spitsbergen. After a while, the licking stopped. They then flew back and forth near Spitzbergen for 14 hours and only then returned to Kings Bai, where Amundsen was still busy preparing for his own flight.

In 1927 Byrd and two other crew members crossed the Atlantic from America to Europe in 48 hours on a non-stop flight ; where he did not reach his destination Paris and made an emergency landing with his Fokker F.VII "America" in the water on July 1, 1927 near the coast of Normandy near Bayeux due to bad weather and shortage of fuel .

The Antarctic

On his 1st Antarctic expedition (1928–1930) he succeeded on 28/29. November 1929 with a Ford AT-5 Trimotor christened Floyd Bennett, the first overflight and circumnavigation of the South Pole , together with Bernt Balchen , Harold June and Ashley McKinley . The trip was financed by John D. Rockefeller , Edsel Ford , the American Geographical Society , the National Geographic Society and the New York Times, among others . The New York Times journalist Russell Owen was the first to report the success of the pole flight straight from Antarctica.

Paul Siple and Rear Admiral Byrd in Antarctica during Operation Highjump in 1947

Byrd led three other expeditions (1933-1935, United States Antarctic Service Expedition (1939-1941), and Operation Highjump (1946-1947)) to Antarctica , on which the exploration and recording of almost the entire coast and large inland parts succeeded. Byrd discovered - like the Marie Byrd Seamount - named after his wife Marie-Byrd-Land , Thurston Island , the Ford Ranges and the Rockefeller Plateau .

His last expedition, Operation Highjump (1946–1947), was the largest in Antarctica history and at the same time a maneuver by the US Navy with 4,000 men and 13 war and civilian ships, which was used to explore and map parts of Antarctica Should serve military purposes, but was canceled prematurely with the loss of several aircraft.

Immediately before his death, Byrd was still in charge of US preparations for the upcoming International Geophysical Year . Byrd was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


In 1930 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society . A moon crater and a Martian crater are named after Richard E. Byrd. The Byrd Firn Field in Antarctica also bears his name. Two ships of the United States Navy were named after him:

The first expedition was presented in a documentary ( With Byrd to the South Pole , 1930).

In 1932, Byrd was the patron of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics .

Byrd was born on March 19, 1921 in the Federal Lodge No. 1 in Washington, DC admitted to the Freemasons' Association. On his 2nd Antarctic expedition (1933–1935) he founded the Antarctic No. Lodge in 1935 with 60 participants, all of whom were already members of the Freemasons' Association . 777 .

The aviator nunatak in Antarctica was dedicated to the pilots involved in the expedition.

Byrd is also related to the Indian Pocahontas .


  • Eugene Rodgers: Beyond the Barrier: The Story of Byrd's first Expedition to Antarctica . United States Naval Institute, Annapolis 1990, ISBN 0-87021-022-X .
  • Gerhard Prause : Nobody laughed at Columbus - corrected popular errors of history . 2nd Edition. Düsseldorf 1998.

Works by Byrd

Web links

Commons : Richard E. Byrd  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Was the first flight to the North Pole a scam? In: Die Zeit , No. 38/1971.
  2. All sorts of things. Colonel Byrd's ocean flight . In: Badener Zeitung , July 6, 1927, p. 5, center left
  3. ^ Nation mourns Admiral Byrd , film sequence about Byrd's burial in Arlington National Cemetery on the British Pathé website ; Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  4. ^ Member History: Richard E. Byrd. American Philosophical Society, accessed May 27, 2018 .
  5. MARS, BYRD ( Memento of May 10, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Mars Gazetteer,; Retrieved May 1, 2010
  6. Jürgen Holtorf: The lodges of the Freemasons . Nikol, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-930656-58-2 , p. 141 .