- Richard Evelyn Byrd
A terrific story of human endurance. Admiral Richard Byrd is one of the great Polar explorers and is responsible for transforming Antarctic expeditions from the dangerous days of the heroic era to the comfort and safety available in modern Antarctic stations.
Byrd organised several American expeditions to Antarctica and built the research station
Little America in the Bay of Whales next to the remains of Roald Amundsens base Framheim.
He did all this with little government support and paved the way for todays US Antarctic
Program. In 1929 he became the
first man to fly over the South Pole, and the first to see it since Scott left it in 1911.
In 1933, frustrated by the limited meteorological observations he could make at his
coastal station he determined to establish a second base far inland. So was Advance Base
born. Initially to be manned over winter by three men, time and material constraints
resulted in a sole occupant over five months of winter: Admiral Byrd himself. In this
book we see the hopeful but wary Byrd descend slowly into despair as unknown to him toxic
carbon monoxide gas from his heater begins to slowly kill him. After recovering from a coma
he realises his predicament and tries to nurse his broken, poisoned body back to health.
Layout of Advance Base
It is a harrowing tale as a bedridden and brain damaged Byrd tries to feed and water himself. He is forced to make the daily decision as to how long he can run his heater without further worsening his condition. Lying alone in the dark with only his thoughts for company he enters the darkest parts of the human psyche and somehow finds the strength to fight. All through this Byrd maintains his daily observations and his weekly radio contact with his colleagues at Little America. Tapping out morse code messages he hopes will disguise his desperate state and prevent a dangerous mid winter rescue. This is a gripping read that would appeal to anyone, not just those interested in Antarctica, but why listen to me when you can judge for yourself? The entire text of this book is available online. Just click on the links below.