Magazine article USA TODAY

Did Byrd's Flight Reach North Pole?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Did Byrd's Flight Reach North Pole?

Article excerpt

When renowned explorer Richard E Byrd returned from the first-ever flight to the North Pole in 1926, he sparked a controversy that remains today: did he actually reach the Pole? Studying supercomputer simulations of atmospheric conditions on the day of the flight and double-checking Byrd's navigation techniques, a researcher at Ohio State University, Columbus, has determined that Byrd indeed neared the Pole, but likely only flew within 80 miles of it before turning back to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

Gerald Newsom, professor emeritus of astronomy, based his results in part on atmospheric simulations from the 20th Century Reanalysis Project at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "I worked out that, if Byrd did make it, he must have had very unusual wind conditions, but it's clear that he really gave it a valiant try, and he deserves a lot of respect."

At issue is whether Byrd and pilot Floyd Bennett could have made the 1,500-mile round trip from Spitsbergen in only 15 hours and 44 minutes, when some experts were expecting a flight time of around 18 hours. Byrd claimed that they encountered strong tail winds that sped the plane's progress. …

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