NEW YORK, Nov. 29, 1929 (UP) -- Commander Richard E. Byrd has started upon his flight for the South Pole, which, if it succeeds, will make every other flying achievement seem simple.
The courageous Virginian took off yesterday at 10:20 p.m., E.S.T., with three companions from his base, Little America in the Antarctic, on the 1,600-mile round trip flight, the New York Times, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and affiliated newspapers announced today.
Accompanying Commander Byrd in his huge tri-motored Ford into the South Polar country-the coldest place on earth-were Bernt Balchen, as pilot; Harold I. June, radio operator, and Capt. Ashley C. McKinley, aerial surveyor and aerial photographer.
On this one great adventure left to scientific exploration, Byrd expects to be in direct radio communication with the Times' radio station in New York City, as well as with his base, and he will report his progress as he flies.
The plane is expected to return to its base 24 hours after the takeoff. It is estimated the flight and return will extend over 1,600 miles.
Byrd's plane rose above the snow yesterday as a deep hush settled over the bleak land and the sun shone upon the frozen land. Since last winter Byrd's expedition had been awaiting just such a condition. They had prepared for it for more than a year.
Byrd may run into gales in which no man nor flying machine possibly could live.
If forced to land, it probably will be on jagged ice that will wreck his plane, equipped with skills to permit landing on snow.
Even if a safe landing is achieved, it will be in a desolate wasteland of ice and snow, where there is no possibility of getting food or fuel.
If Byrd succeeds, he not only will be the first to fly across this barren continent, but the first to cross it in any manner.
His success will be of vast importance to the world of science.
It is approximately 800 miles from Byrd's base at Little America to the South Pole. Byrd would be expected to reach his objective about mid-morning today (Eastern standard time) if all went well and the big plane maintained an average speed of about 100 miles an hour. There is, however, the possibility of changing weather conditions. It is a flight that presents untold hazards.
Byrd's goal is the hardest any aviator ever set for himself, the most perilous task man ever undertook in one of his own birds in the air.
The flight is not simply one of 800 miles inland and back again. It is a flight for hundreds of miles over rolling barriers of ice, rock and snow, then a rampart of mountains 11,000 feet high, which the plane must climb before continuing its journey over a plateau 10,000 feet above sea level.
The Antarctic is a vast continent whose average height is the greatest on earth. There are mountains towering 15,000 feet into the sky. Mt. Erebus, 13,350 feet high, is an active volcano.
The South Polar country is the windiest place on earth. One can hear his breath freeze. The cold eats thru clothing, nips the nose and ears and fingers and drives one to a hasty retreat. The wind that sweeps over the plains roared in every ventilator and stove pipe of Byrd's little base as the explorers awaited the break in the weather that came on Thanksgiving Day, 3,000 miles from the last outposts of civilization.
Byrd's flight is complicated by factors of speed, horsepower, rate of climbing, engineering problems, the weather, the route and bases, the possibilities of refueling, if necessary, at an inland base. Veteran airmen agree that there probably has never been a flight like it.
Byrd and his intrepid companions must hurdle the mountains at an altitude of 16,000 feet, then travel at a height of 12,000 feet for 700 miles across a plateau 10,000 feet high.
Along the route of their aerial journey they will scan the barren continent for bases that have been laid by the expedition.
Byrd hopes to find much valuable knowledge for science. His party at Little America includes meteorologists, geologists, botanists and physicists. The meteorologists are studying the air strata, air movements and climactic conditions.
Bases along Byrd's route have been laid by himself, flying across the wastes and by the party of geologists, traveling in a snowmobile and by dog sleds.
Once Ross Sea is behind him, Byrd will be in a terrain absolutely devoid of animal life of any sort. But Byrd is eager for the new adventure. He is bent on conquering the unknown polar regions.
To facilitate observations, Byrd's plane has an open cockpit and plate glass in the floors.
For more than a year, isolated in the dull and forbidding desolation far south of New Zealand, Byrd's men have been working for the invasion of the inscrutable unknown at the pole.
Byrd is the leading exponent of heavier-than-air craft exploration in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. His flight from Spitzbergen to the North Pole was made in 1926, the American explorer completing his 15-hour-and-30-minute trip before the flight of the dirigible Norge and thus being the first to fly over the top of the world. No other airplane flight has been made to the North Pole. The late Floyd Bennett, who accompanied Byrd to the North Pole, was honored by the commander when the big airplane used in the Antarctic was given his name.
Byrd's flight across the Atlantic was the next outstanding achievement in his career. Accompanied by Bernt Balchen, who had aided him at Spitzbergen, and three companions, Byrd made the flight from New York to Paris in 1927 only to be prevented from landing by fog. The big plane finally came down on the coast.
Byrd is a skillful pilot but his principal duty on such flights is navigation. It will be his job to find the point somewhere in the desolate Antarctic plains and hills which is the South Pole.