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Was Byrd's plane ever returned to the USA?
Old 04-02-2012, 10:23 PM   #1
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Was Byrd's plane ever returned to the USA?

I just watched a movie I recorded on AMC Thursday morning. It was called "With Byrd at the South Pole". It was a documentary made in 1930 of the 1929 Antarctic expedition of Admiral Byrd's flight to the South Pole. It was 1hour and 22 minutes in length.

It started with a narrative by Byrd. Then it turned into a silent movie of the expedition sailing to and landing on Antarctica in Nov or around Christmas. They set up camp then the ship left for New Zealand - they spent the winter there as they needed time to get their camp built, supplies stored and prepare for winter. The sun set on 4/19 and came up 4 months later.

They had a plane destroyed by strong winds before winter so they put the plane for the flight into a safe place and built a shelter to protect it with snow blocks covered with a tarp. Come summer they got the plane out and prepared it.

The total weight of the loaded plane had to be less than 15,000 pounds so everything put on the plane was weighed. There were 2 photographers on the expedition and 1 flew with Byrd and his crew to the South Pole. It was an 18 hour round trip flight with 1 stop on the way back for refueling the plane at 1 of the depots they set up in case of an emergency.

They were totally alone, if anything went wrong it is doubtful anyone could have gotten to them as they were hundreds of miles from camp or even found them. They had problems getting over a mountain range, it was too high and the plane was too heavy so they tossed out a supply of food that would have lasted them 30 days. I think they said it weighed just 100 or 200 pounds but that allowed them to climb in the thin air, they were 10,000' above sea level. but had anything gone wrong going over those mountains there was nowhere and no way to land the plane. They'd have died from the crash or of exposure, they had no food now.

When they reached the pole on Nov 29th they radioed back but it was Morse code! That surprised me, I thought having a radio meant they could talk. Over the pole they dropped an American flag tied to a rock from the grave of Byrd's co pilot when they flew over the North Pole. The plane was named after him but I forget the name.

When they returned they had a big celebration and the ship arrived to take them home. They left 2 airplanes behind, one was the one he flew over the pole.

So my question to you is I wonder what ever became of it? I can't imagine it was just left there to be destroyed but back then maybe they did not value it and decided it was not worth taking back. Did you ever hear about this expedition or if they ever recovered the plane? It probably was destroyed by the winds but all that stuff is still there unless it was removed in future years. What an amazing film this was!


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Old 04-02-2012, 10:57 PM   #2
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Searching Wikipedia and this site South Pole Flight, Conquering the Ice: Byrd's Flight to the South Pole
indicates that the plane was a Ford Tri-motor named the "Floyd Bennett".

After the flight, it returned to their exploration base named "Little America".

Little America (exploration base) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia details the various Little America bases. It mentions that Little America II was established about 30 feet above the original Little America with some of the original base accessible by tunnel.

So perhaps the plane is buried in snow/ice?

It was not uncommon for equipment to be abandoned when an exploration was completed.

omni


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Old 04-02-2012, 11:07 PM   #3
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I Googled the topic, and found out that it's supposed to be on display at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI -

Heroes of the Sky at Henry Ford Museum

It was taken there after the fight, according to the site

www.south-pole.com

Curious minds...
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:19 PM   #4
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I found it!

The "Floyd Bennett" is at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI (along with "Josephine Ford" the plane Byrd used for his North Pole flight .)

Low-Latitude Antarctic Gazetteer - Series Two - Sites Associated with Richard E. Byrd

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Old 04-03-2012, 12:24 AM   #5
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In the 1920's-30's, and for many years afterwards, CW (Continuous Wave) "Morse Code" was the most efficient means of radio communication as far as received signal strength versus power required to run the transmitter. The voice method then was AM (Amplitude Modulation), which was power-hungry, and since it has a wider bandwidth, had a poorer signal to noise ratio at the receiver. The invention and acceptance of SSB (Single SideBand, reduced carrier) changed that many years later. SSB was a much more complex system than AM, but it's benefits won out.

Ford Tri-Motor - Who says you can't make an airplane out of corrugated metal?! I've seen a tri-motor in person, must have been at the Ford Museum/Greenfield Village years ago. In the early 80's, that museum was a real wonder. They packed everything in side to side. Loved it! Engineer's heaven. Then they cut the number of pieces on display by 80% or so, and made it one of those "interpretive" places, and it lost its luster for me. Maybe it was better for the general public.
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Old 04-03-2012, 08:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veremchuka View Post
When they reached the pole on Nov 29th they radioed back but it was Morse code! That surprised me, I thought having a radio meant they could talk.
Even today, you would probably be astounded at the amount of communication accomplished worldwide via Morse code. It gets through when more sophisticated methods are lost in the noise.
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:47 AM   #7
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Thanks. Yes, Floyd Bennett, was the name of Byrd's co-pilot when he flew over the North Pole and the name of his plane used to fly to the South Pole. I'm glad to see that the plane was recovered and is in a museum, I was afraid it was considered to be useless after the flight and discarded! I don't care much about planes or flight in general but this plane is unique and it would be a shame if it was abandoned and lost. I did a google search but failing to remember the name of the plane it was going nowhere.
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Old 04-04-2012, 10:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veremchuka View Post
When they reached the pole on Nov 29th they radioed back but it was Morse code! That surprised me, I thought having a radio meant they could talk. Over the pole they dropped an American flag tied to a rock from the grave of Byrd's co pilot when they flew over the North Pole. The plane was named after him but I forget the name.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Telly View Post
In the 1920's-30's, and for many years afterwards, CW (Continuous Wave) "Morse Code" was the most efficient means of radio communication as far as received signal strength versus power required to run the transmitter. The voice method then was AM (Amplitude Modulation), which was power-hungry, and since it has a wider bandwidth, had a poorer signal to noise ratio at the receiver. The invention and acceptance of SSB (Single SideBand, reduced carrier) changed that many years later. SSB was a much more complex system than AM, but it's benefits won out.
The U.S. Pacific submarine force used CW throughout WWII. They could pick specific MF/HF frequencies for ionosphere skips at certain times of the day, and CW was really the only way to get enough signal through the static at that extreme range back to Pearl Harbor, the Aleutians, or Australia.

WWII history books mention U.S. submariners coming up to transmit and having to ignore the Japanese attempts to "receive" their reports. The Japanese had not broken their crypto and could only copy, but they hoped to trick the U.S. submarines into transmitting before a COMSUBPAC radio watchstander was ready to receive. The submarine radiomen could actually tell by signal strength which side was transmitting-- the Japanese transmitters were too powerful and coming in too clearly, especially when the submarine patrol area was in the Sea of Japan. Frequently the RM could even tell who was on the CW key at the other end just by their "hand" transmission style.

Quote:
Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
Even today, you would probably be astounded at the amount of communication accomplished worldwide via Morse code. It gets through when more sophisticated methods are lost in the noise.
In the 1980s Cold War, the U.S. Navy used to fly planes trailing an antennae wire thousands of feet long. (I don't remember what airframe-- C-130s? Those poor aircrew.) They'd put the plane into a tight turn and orbit in a tiny little circle with hard rudder at altitude until the wire sagged down into a long vertical rotating antenna. Then they'd transmit VLF (at some godawful humongous power) to the ballistic missile submarines, who could receive the signal at a depth of up to 90 feet (with a sail antenna) or deeper (with their own floating wire or floating buoy). This would go on for hours with that plane locked into that tight little circle. We'd have to copy every message over every circuit possible to "prove" that we could copy missile launch orders whenever necessary... at least until that stationary orbiting plane was shot out of the sky.

For a major exercise they'd light up the whole spectrum from VLF to HF, and the radiomen would have to copy CW. IIRC the professional advancement requirements (PARs) for a RM to advance to E-6 rank required them to be able to copy 16 WPM. Of course any RM that could transmit at that speed had retired decades ago, so the CW transmissions were tape-recorded at slow speeds and sped up for the appropriate difficulty level.

Two RMs would be hopping around the radio room like hypercaffeinated monkeys trying to keep the gear on the right frequencies & crypto. Some of it would be backups, other would only be used if conditions were simulated to be wartime damage. Our RMs used to copy CW with headphones unless the transmission was really gnarly, in which case they'd blast the speaker in the radio room and have four RMs copying the same broadcast at the same time in hopes that we'd get one right. You'd have four IBM Selectric II typewriters clacking away amid all of that bleeping noise, with somebody occasionally offering helpful (shouted) feedback like "No, that was a ROMEO, dammit!!" You'd also have two officers hovering behind each RM, ready to rip the message out of the typewriter as soon as it was received so that they could decrypt and authenticate it. Of course the Weapons Officer was fuming silently in the background, either annoyed that he couldn't simulate a launch yet or pissed off at you for taking too much of his launch-window time to finish the authentication. You had to keep up with everything at 100% accuracy and make your launch window or else place yourself on report at the end of the patrol.

The aircraft were called TACAMO (TAke Charge And Move Out) and many were flown by Reservists. This is how we spent our Saturday & Sunday afternoons & evenings... and a few midwatches if they were behind on their exercise hours. Our only consolation was that at least we weren't hanging from our harnesses at a constant 45-degree list to port or stbd while they were orbiting.

Yeah, I don't miss any of that Cold War experience one bit.
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