TO THE POLE by Richard E. Byrd

TO THE POLE

The Diary and Notebook of Richard E. Byrd, 1925-1927

KIRKUS REVIEW

This contribution to polar history—a contextualized and annotated reproduction of Richard Byrd’s scant diary during the most important years of his life—from Ohio State University archivist Goerler will likely be of interest to only the most fanatical scholars of Arctic and Antarctic exploration. During the years covered here, Byrd conducted his path-breaking expedition to Greenland, undertook the controversial North Pole flight, and made the third transatlantic flight. He kept a rather hasty diary (Byrd admits it “is a very poor affair indeed. The most uninteresting [diary] ever written,” and he’s not far wrong). Goerler unearthed the journal while cataloging Byrd’s papers. As Byrd scribbled his entries almost randomly, Goerler has gone to the trouble of deciphering their arrangement, setting them in chronological order, and adding explanatory notes. Each of the three expeditions gets a chapter, and each chapter is introduced by Goerler with a biographical sketch of Byrd at the time. Don’t expect any earth-shattering discoveries—the North Pole flight remains as controversial as ever. But readers will take away a little taste of what (supposedly) transpired between Byrd and his pilot Floyd Bennett during the flight. While the airplane’s engines thundered, making conversation impossible, Byrd communicated to Bennett by writing instructions in the diary and showing them to Bennett: “You must not persist in keeping too far to the right.” The diary is also a reminder that not all great achievements are accompanied by nonstop thrills; the entries suggest great prairies of boredom and logisitics punctuated by flashes of intense excitement. The fact that Byrd kept the diary at all leads one to believe he had nothing to hide. Experts will pore over the sextant readings, looking for clues; most folks will dip into these pages for the brief you-were-there moments. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8142-0800-2
Page count: 168pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998




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