Byrd’s 1929 journey opened the southernmost continent to science

Richard Evelyn Byrd’s historic flight to the South Pole 75 years ago this month laid the groundwork for today’s United States Antarctic Program, the nation’s massive research enterprise on the southernmost continent.

In honor of Byrd’s accomplishment, the National Science Foundation (NSF) today launched a commemorative Web site that chronicles how aircraft make scientific research in the polar regions possible and describes some of the cutting-edge discoveries made because of the logistics support aircraft provide.

NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, coordinating all U.S. scientific research on the continental and the surrounding oceans.

The Web site may be accessed at .

It contains an overview of Byrd’s accomplishments and a first-person account of a commemorative flight that traced Byrd’s route flown earlier this month by a New York Air National Guard LC-130 cargo aircraft. The site also contains video from that flight and Byrd’s 1929 trip as well as still images from the commemorative flight.

Today, NSF maintains three year-round scientific stations in Antarctica, including the one at the geographic South Pole, and puts several hundred researchers into the field annually between October and February.

But 75 years ago, it was Byrd who paved the way by flying an early tri-motor aircraft into unknown territory, proving aircraft were up to the changes presented by the world’s highest, driest, coldest and most forbidding continent. His success made him a national hero, and Americans followed the news of his flight with the same intensity felt by their children a generation later as they followed the first moon landing.

For b-roll on Betacam SP, contact Dena Headlee, (703) 292-7739 /

For photos taken during the commemorative flight, contact Peter West, (703) 292-7761 /

Media contact:

Peter West
(703) 292-7761