Amundsen was double winner  

New Evidence Indicates He, Not Byrd, Was First to Reach North Pole 


Fresh studies have revealed that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first in the world to conquer both the North and South Poles.  

Seventy years ago, in 1926, Roald Amundsen believed that he had been beaten to the North Pole by American Richard E. Byrd. A meticulous study of Byrds' diary has now revealed that the latter in all probability did not reach the North Pole at all.  

Long-held suspicions that Byrd was not the first man to reach the North Pole were strengthened after an American researcher and expert in polar navigation, Dennis Rawlins, studied a recently discovered diary belonging to Byrd. This was found in the archives of the Byrd Polar Research Centre in Ohio, USA in 1994.  

Rawlins was the first to analyze the notes in the diary with a view to establishing exactly how far north Byrd reached in 1926. The diary he studied was unique in that it was used both for observations and for written communication between Byrd and the pilot of the Fokker monoplane, Floyd Bennett. Dennis Rawlins says he is sure that Byrd did not reach his goal and that he must have been aware of this fact.  

The diary also disproves the accusations made in 1971 by Norwegian-American pilot Bernt Balchen that Richard Byrd never made a serious attempt to reach the North Pole but simply flew out of sight of the assembled press who were gathered on Svalbard (Norway's arctic islands), before circling around for a while and returning to his starting point. Refuting these claims, Rawlins says that Byrd made a serious attempt and navigated well both on the outward and inward journeys, But observations in his diary do not tally with the official report that he had achieved his objective the North Pole. He appears to have turned back, on account of an engine leak, when the plane was about 240 km short of the Pole, Rawlins says.  

Byrd flew from Svalbard on 8 May 1926 and claimed to have reached the Pole the next morning. On his return to Svalbard, he was congratulated by Roald Amundsen who three days later, on 12 May flew over the North Pole in the airship "Norge," the first man, it now appears, to reach this point.  

Six years later, he narrowly defeated Englishman Robert Falcon Scott in a race for the South Pole.  


Norway Now, May 20, 1996 

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