Description1926 Byrd Arctic Expedition- Chief Engineer Thomas B. Mulroy's Personal Diary. Signed by "R E Byrd", "Floyd Bennett", and others, handwritten in a 1926 Ready Reference Diary, red cloth cover, 222 pages, 12mo (5.25" x 7"), generally fine condition, with daily entries from April 5 through June 25. Mulroy, ready to embark on the biggest adventure of his life wrote on the front page: "Diary of Thos. B. Mulroy Chief Engineer of the S.S. Chantier on its trip to the North Pole with Commander Byrd's Arctic Expedition beginning April 5th, 1926 ending" He never went back and filled in the close date on this front page but, on June 25 he wrote the last entry in this fascinating and historical journal, "The end of a perfect trip".
The history of this particular North Pole expedition is well-known to many. Richard Evelyn Byrd, born to a wealthy old Virginia family, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1912 and learned to fly during his Navy tour of duty in World War I. Flying became his passion and he pioneered many techniques of navigating over open ocean without landmarks including drift indicators and bubble sextants. This talent would serve him well as he was tapped by the Navy to plan the flight paths for their 1919 transatlantic crossing attempts. Fast forward to late 1925; an international "race" was going on to be the first to fly over the North Pole. Several attempts in balloons, dirigibles, and planes had already ended in failure or even death. Byrd was determined to be first and raised money for the expensive undertaking from Edsel Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Vincent Astor, Rodman Wanamaker and others. The U.S. shipping board leased him a 3800-ton steamer, the Chantier for $1.00 per month. He picked out his plane, a Fokker Trimotor, and christened it Josephine Ford in honor of Henry Ford's daughter. With a crew of 52volunteers, a combination of skilled specialists and laborers, Byrd departed from New York harbor on April 5, 1926. At about this same time, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, along with American adventurer Lincoln Ellsworth, was planning his own flight over the pole in a dirigible; the race was on! Let's pick up the story with some brief quotes from Mulroy's diary:
Monday, April 5 - "...all hands ashore at 3:00 PM, left Brooklyn Navy Yard at 3:30 PM, bid good-bye to Ruth from the dock, anchored at Gravesend bay for the night..."
Wednesday, April 7 - "At sea, weather calm...everybody happy, talked with the Commander Byrd...ship running all over the ocean, bad steering, warned the mate something was going to happen to the steering gear. I wish Ruth was here now."
Friday, April 9 - "...steering chains fouled, cleared same & told the mate what I thought of him..."
Sunday, April 11 - "...Commander Byrd was telling me he is thinking of going to the south pole next winter & would like to have me along with him. I told him he would have to see the capt. at home, he thought it was a very good joke."
Monday, April 12 - "...just past mid-night we past [sic] near the spot where the Titanic went down in 1912..."
Tuesday, April 13 - "...rough sea & getting cold, making fairly good time, have to beat Ammunson [sic] there."
Thursday, April 22 - "...Commander Byrd a little peeved, receive word Amundsen intends to start from Spitsbergen April 28th..."
Wednesday, April 28 - "Smooth sea up to 8 AM then it started to get colder & blowing like hell, hope it keeps blowing for a day or 2 as it will keep the Norge [Amundsen's dirigible] in Russia..."
Thursday, April 29 - "...arrived at King's Bay, Spitsbergen at 3:15 PM...was introduced to Amundsen and Elsworth [sic] by Commander Byrd..."
Saturday,May 1 - "Loaded big plane and all hands rowed it ashore..."
Sunday, May 2 - "Worked 24 hours in a stretch, darn near froze at times..."
Wednesday, May 5 - "Worked all morning & afternoon on installing new skis on the big plane...then the plane took to the air had a very good get away & staid [sic] in the air about 2 hours and made a wonderful landing..."
Saturday, May 8 - "Worked all night strengthening the plane skis, everything finished & ready to take off bid the Commander & Bennett a world of success..."
Sunday, May 9 - "...Reached the North Pole & returned in 16 hours..."
Monday, May 10 - "Was invited by Commander Byrd to attend a little dinner, Capt. Amundsen, Mr. Ellsworth...made great friends with Mr. Ellsworth we split cuff buttons till we meet again..."
Wednesday, May 12 - "Weather bad, working on the main engine & boilers, getting ready to return."
Monday, May 17 - "Worked all day & part of the night...Commander is very much worried about Amundsen beating him back to the State, everytime he sees me he asks about leaving."
Thursday, May 20 - "Left Kings Bay, Spitsbergen at 7:15 AM. Commander Byrd all smiles every time he see me he praises me to the sky..."
Friday, May 28 - "Arrived at Shadwell Basin London England at 3:00 AM..."
Wednesday, June 2 - "Went to the Derby & lost £5 on the race...think Eddie was right when he said the only way to make money on horse is follow them with a shovel..."
Tuesday, June 8 - "Rough sea. Blowing a gale. Old Betsey is pitching and rolling quite a bit."
Sunday, June 20 - "Calm part of the day for a wonder, but blew like hell from noon on, she rolled me out of my bunk."
Tuesday, June 22 - "...passed Nantuket [sic] Light & Ship at 1:15 PM it sure feels good to be so near port, everybody washingclothes and packing up, the Commander inform the Capt. & myself we were to receive medals..."
Thursday, June 24 - "...Ruth came out...sure was some kind of glad to see her. Paraded to City Hall, was received & present with a medal by Mayor Walker"
This diary is an historically significant day-by-day record of one of the 20th century's great adventures, especially interesting as it shows Byrd's competitive nature in his quest to beat Amundsen to the goal. Disputes have arisen over Byrd and Bennett's claim to the record-breaking first flight over the North Pole on May 9, 1926 in the Josephine Ford. Whether they missed the pole by a few miles or not is unimportant; it was the spirit of adventure and competition that made the feat so important. This first-hand account can be yours to read, study, and enjoy for the price of the highest bid, but really and truly, it is priceless.
Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping
Sales Tax information | Terms and Conditions
Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments
Glossary of Terms
Buyer's Premium per Lot:
19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.
- Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
- Bid online
- Free Collector newsletter
- Want List with instant e-mail notifications
- Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
- Cash Advances
- More Bidders
- Trusted Experts
- Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
Learn about consigning with us
We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.View More Testimonials
HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)