National Geographic : 1957 Sep
Young's tractor train met Skip Dawson's homebound advance party on December 21, exactly 575 miles from Little America. I ex pected their meeting to be the scene of great rejoicing. I also fully expected, and was prepared to approve, a request to "splice the main brace"-naval parlance for imbibing spirits after a rugged assignment. Instead, after the briefest of greetings, both groups were under way again in minutes. Young's radioed situation report that night recorded: "Met band of nomads... Claimed to be Army-Navy trail party." At 2 p.m., December 23, the tractor train reached 80° South, 1200 West. Their long trek was over. They had successfully de livered four buildings, with appliances, across 646 statute miles of snow in the most 398 U. S. Navy, Official Final Flag of the Advance Party Signals the End of the Trail Flags, planted every fifth of a mile, helped the party maintain a straight course across Marie Byrd Land's desolate snow plain. Byrd Station's 14 winterproofed buildings here notch the bleak horizon. From them, IGY meteor ologists are already probing the polar skies to solve mysteries of antarctic weather formation. To the station's right, Stars and Stripes flies from a snow mound erected by the advance party. + Navy Chief Photographer Larsen, whose Koda chromes illustrate this article, records his location on a pole planted to mark the site of Byrd Station latitude 80° South, longitude 120° West. unusual towing operation in Navy annals. Basebuilding was old hat to the Seabees. Augmented by reinforcements flown in despite near-zero visibility, they completed the first building by 1 a.m. Christmas morning. All four of the buildings in that initial load -ten more were scheduled for later erection - w ere stanchly in place when Byrd Station was commissioned on New Year's Day, 1957. I can't predict what the scientists will learn from their observations at Byrd Station. I do know, however, that what the Army and Navy have learned in the art of tractor operation on snow is of incalculable value. This knowl edge may someday play an essential role in the defense of our freedoms. And, perhaps more important, the long haul provided a bitter test of the skill, courage, and resourcefulness of the men behind the machines. They were not found wanting.