Admiral Byrd Diary

Admiral Byrd Diary


Admiral Byrd Diary

Section 08:00

:: Slight turbulence noted from easterly direction  


He is obviously airborne at this stage in order to reach 2321 feet. He is off to a good start. It is interesting to note that while the majority of the winds in the North and South Poles come from 1 direction, this is not always the case.

PDF (PDF Summary: Depending upon how hot or cold the air and land surface is, whether heating up or cooling down, the regular wind at the poles may be affected - Duh-Oh).

More WIND info here with pictures.

The only problem I have so far is with the 1 Foot measurement.

Admiral Byrd Diary Admiral Byrd Diary

Altimeter Checks

Many factors could affect the accuracy of the old model altimeters, so it can safely be assumed that Byrd would have done some in-flight altimeter checks to ensure that he was happy the way his altimeter(s) worked in the sub-zero conditions before proceeding.


The old analog altimeters (from memory and please correct me if I am wrong) registered in increments of 10, 20 or 100 Feet, they did not register 1-10 or even 1-99 so how he came up with 2321 feet is interesting.

Indeed, most only registered height in 10 Feet units, 20 Feet units or 100 Foot units. (see image)

Also interesting to note from a pilot's perspective is that again he does NOT mention the planes name, nor does he refer to it at all with any kind of affectionate name or Alias as most pilots do.

Surely such an historic and momentous occasion would have warranted the name of the plane be included in the diary, yet nothing seems to exist. Example: The F111 handles the turns in -40 degrees very well, just a slight metalic grinding noise coming from the left wing after a 10 degree turn etc.

The Writer does not even name the model of the plane he traveled in. I have so much trouble getting over this simple omission.

History of Altimeters

The first operationally effective barometric altimeter was designed by Paul Kollsman and first tested in 1929. It was designed and is still primarily used as an aircraft guidance instrument. Kollsman, who immigrated to the United States from Germany, was determined to find a way for airplanes to fly at night or in low visibility.

The barometric altimeter makes that possible.

Basic Function of Altimeters

The barometric altimeter works by measuring air pressure and correlating it to a specific altitude. At higher altitudes, air pressure decreases; at low altitudes, air pressure increases. A barometric altimeter measures the air pressure just like a meteorological barometer and then translates that reading into a measurement of altitude.

A barometric altimeter must be calibrated for adjustments to local air pressure to obtain the most accurate reading.

Complications of Altimeters

Air pressure is affected by temperature and velocity, among other variables, and the measurement can be complicated. A pitot-static system combines measurements from a static port with measurements from an open port on the wing of an airplane, and these days, specially calibrated computers calculate the necessary adjustments to obtain an accurate reading. Computers were not available in Byrd's day.

Radar Altimeter

Perhaps Byrd was using a radar altimeter ? Yet again he does not mention this.

In 1924, American engineer Lloyd Espenschied invented the radar altimeter.

However, it took 14 years before Bell Labs was able to put Espenschied's device in a form that was adaptable for aircraft use. In 1938 in co-operation with Bell Labs, United AirLines fitted a radar type device to some of its airliners as a terrain avoidance device.

I cannot find any supporting evidence that Byrd has a Radar Altimeter, however, being a Military plane and the fact that it was being used for super-hostile terrain, one would hope that Byrd did indeed have a Radar Altimeter installed to compensate for the deceptive descrepancies which would have occured flying over an endless white surface especially when temperatures and velocity factors would have been a major challenge in any plane (of the day) over the South Pole which would have been exacerbated and compounded by any clouds encountered.

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