National Geographic : 1957 Jul
WHAT the round earth was to Colum bus, what circumnavigation of the globe was to Magellan, polar explora tion was to Richard Evelyn Byrd. If Colum bus was Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Byrd, first man to fly over both Poles, was Admiral of the Ends of the Earth. No man in history contributed more to knowledge of the Arctic and Antarctic than Byrd. This year's great scientific assault on Antarctica represents the culmination of his lifetime of work and leadership. With the passing of the greatest explorer of the Air Age last March 11, the National Geographic Society lost a beloved Life Trus tee, a firm friend and ally in the cause of discovery for 32 years. One day in the spring of 1925, as a junior member of the National Geographic staff, I was asked to welcome a young naval officer who had called at The Society's headquarters. Straight as a jack staff, handsome and forthright, Lieutenant Commander Byrd had an enthusiasm and warmth of personality that we of the National Geographic found in stantly to our liking. Even more, we were attracted by his bold, yet sound, ideas. Audacious Idea: Planes in the Arctic He had come to see Dr. Gilbert Grosvenor, then The Society's President and Editor, to win his backing in a new kind of exploration: by airplane over the frozen Arctic. If this idea seems less than startling today, it is largely because of Byrd's own accom plishments. In 1925 flying was hazardous, even over civilized country. Planes were crude and unpredictable; aerial navigation as such was in its infancy. To most people, Byrd's plan to take planes into the polar wastes was as fantastic-almost-as Colum bus's scheme to reach the East by sailing west.