Over the Ice: Polar Exploration from the Air
For Americans, the spring of 1926 was an exciting time in long-distance aviation. The newspapers were full of thrilling tales of pioneering flights, including three aerial expeditions aiming for the North Pole. The excitement came to a head on 9 May 1926, when Richard E. Byrd, a young American naval aviator, returned to his expedition’s base at King’s Bay, Spitsbergen (Svalbard), after a flight of just over 15 hours, proclaiming that he and his co-pilot Floyd Bennett had become the first people to reach the North Pole by air. Byrd’s announcement triggered a patriotic outpouring in the American press, with headlines trumpeting the United States’ polar conquest. Byrd returned home a national hero, where he was met by cheering crowds and public accolades, including the Congressional Medal of Honor.