Monday, February 13, 2012

Admiral Byrd - 1934 Paramount Newsreel Book

I started with the back cover because it is simply iconic.
Richard Byrd was hardly the first to reach the South Pole.  Perhaps he is better remembered in the U.S. because this was an American expedition.  He had already garnered respect for his prior flights. 

In addition to the gimmick of flying over the South Pole, the expedition did hard exploration. One memorable factoid from this book is that they discovered an entire mountain range.  I've become a bit spoiled by Google Earth.

Front Cover
This expedition included ships completely loaded with provisions.  This was just one of the airplanes on board.

This photo borrowed from the Wikimedia Commons better shows the full scale of the expedition.

This wasn't a high quality book to begin with and it is definitely showing its age.  This page snapped and presented an opportunity for a clean scan to show off the interesting typeface.  The tone is pretty consistent through the book with the Newsreel Men as part of the community.

This caption sounds like it came straight out of a Wes Jackson movie.  Three expedition members had taken the Fokker on a scouting mission.  While away on foot, a windstorm destroyed the plane and everything in it.  They salvaged a piece of fabric from the wing.  This makeshift flag caught the eye of Admiral Byrd's crew after three days in the Antarctic waste.  Great stuff!

This was relatively early in the wireless era.  They had an entire room dedicated as a radio laboratory and reportedly maintained contact with the outside world for the duration of the expedition.  The book even starts with an amusing story of one of the Newsreel Men wanting to make ice cream.  No problem:  the Wireless Operator simply called (or more likely Morsed) for instructions.
I'm sure the amateur radio operators can comment on this antenna design.  That's a pretty fair amount of wire.  They had terrain and apparently used HF transmission to call home.  My guess is this is an HF rig.  Note the dog team in the background.
This Ford Trimotor lives on today in the Henry Ford Museum.

On the way to the first flight over the South Pole on November 28, 1929.
Looking over this book brought back happy memories.  I grew up during the space race and aspired to becoming a pilot.  In elementary school, I even did a report on Admiral Byrd.  That was before drifting to 20:500 or so nearsightedness rained on that parade. 

Now for a bit of rumination.  Admiral Byrd was one of my heroes and learning about how planes worked taught me a lot about technology.  Today, we take trips into space for granted.  The space shuttle program is grounded, but that has not prevented the continuous habitation of the International Space Station.  Many people are concerned that the lack of an American human space program with grand ambitions keeps us from becoming inspired.

This makes me think about my kids.  The technology oriented one, Gingercat, decided on her own that she wanted a radio license.  Her heroes include Nicola Tesla and Dean Kamen.  We keep up with NASA's robotic probe programs and sent poor Spirit electronic postcards before its last long Martian winter.  Like me, she tends to draw inspiration from past and present innovations and innovators.  She is OK with robotkind doing exploration on behalf of humankind.  However, I can't honestly say she is a typical girl.

Daughter number one is about to start high school in an innovative Animal Health program created in collaboration with K-State University.  She also loves science, but is not quite as obsessive about it as her sister.

Well, this blog post meandered a ways from the original subject matter.  But I can't help thinking about the future of innovation and the current state of science and technology education and inspiration.  I work for a manufacturing company engaged in helping building designers make buildings that don't fall apart in 20 years.  Intellectual capital and the ability to "make" are important priorities for me.

What do you think?  Where does your country stand in terms of innovation?  Do we have a hero deficit and does it matter?

As always, thanks for reading.

Typecast Machine of the Day:  Stuff that was made over 80 years ago and is still going strong.

1 comment:

Dang. My blog was hit by Spam comments. Comment moderation has been turned on for some time yet to be determined.