Polar Record

Research Article

Byrd's Arctic flight in the context of model atmospheres

G.H. Newsom

Department of Astronomy, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA (gnewsom@astronomy.ohio-state.edu)


The availability of modern computer models of plausible atmospheric pressure versus altitude for a grid of points over the earth's surface permits a reexamination of Richard Byrd's dead reckoning navigation on his flight in May 1926 from Spitsbergen northwards and his return. Although details of how Byrd converted atmospheric pressure to altitude are ambiguous, the recent atmospheric models probably indicate a small systematic bias that would cause Byrd to overestimate his dead reckoning distance traveled. The same models provide a range of computed winds versus time, altitude, and location, leading to the conclusion that, if Byrd's reported winds during his flight are correct, it was the result of a very unusual and fortuitous circumstance.

(Received September 2011)

(Online publication February 29 2012)