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    Important Relics from Admiral Byrd's Antarctic Expedition Ship, the City of New York. The history of the City of New York began in 1885, when she was known as the Samson. The Samson was a 170 foot steam barque launched by K. Larsen at Logebergskaret, Arendal, Norway. The ship's first duty was as a sealing ship operating in arctic waters and ranging from the Orkneys to Newfoundland. On the night of April 14,1912, Samson, with 3000 pounds of frozen seal in her hold, was in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. On the horizon the crew of Samson saw signal rockets fired into the night sky by an unidentified ship. Samson's cargo of seal was illegal, harvested in Canadian territorial waters without the necessary permits. Fearing the rockets were from a Royal Navy vessel wanting to board Samson, the crew doused the ship's lights and quickly steamed out of the area. A few days later the captain of Samson heard the news of the sinking of RMS Titanic with the loss of 1517 lives. As additional news of the disaster was released it became clear to the captain and crew of Samson that their ship was the "mystery" ship that lay only a few miles from the stricken Titanic and did not come to her aid. The captain of SS Californian, another ship in the vicinity which did not respond Titanic's distress signals, was publicly pilloried and became a outcast in the shipping fraternity. The officers and crew of the Samson wisely kept quiet about their unknowing abandonment of Titanic until 1962, the fiftieth anniversary of the sinking.

    The Samson continued to ply the icy waters of the world. The men racing to find glory in the arctic and Antarctic were well-aware of the rugged ship and often saw her in their travels. In 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton, having been beaten to the South Pole by Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen, turned his attention to an attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. Almost immediately upon arriving at the Waddell Sea, Shackleton's ship, Endurance, became icebound. Shackleton and his crew stayed with the ship for eleven months until it was crushed by the ice that trapped it. After floating around the Southern Ocean in an iceberg, the desperate men sailed into the unknown in three small boats that survived. Shackleton deposited his men on an island and, with five others, continued by sea and land to finally find help at a whaling station at Stromness on the South Georgia Island. There he found Samson. It was aboard Samson that Shackleton began the rescue of his scattered crew.

    Captain Roald Amundsen, the Arctic explorer, was well-acquainted with Samson, having sailed aboard her on several expeditions near Spitzbergen. In 1927, Amundsen recommended Samson to the American, Admiral Richard Byrd, who was planning an expedition to the Antarctic. Byrd followed his friend's advice and purchased Samson to serve as his flagship on the expedition. After a $160,000 overhaul of Samson, Byrd renamed the ship City of New York. In 1928, Byrd began his first expedition to the Antarctic with City of New York, another ship, and three airplanes. A base camp named "Little America" was constructed on the Ross Ice Shelf and scientific expeditions by snowshoe, dogsled, snowmobile, and airplane began. Photographic expeditions and geological surveys were undertaken for the duration of that summer, and constant radio communications were maintained with the outside world. After their first winter, their expeditions were resumed, and on November 28, 1929, the famous flight to the South Pole and back was launched. Byrd, along with a pilot, copilot, and photographer, flew the Ford Tri-motor to the South Pole and back in 18 hours, 41 minutes. They had difficulty gaining enough altitude, and they had to dump empty gas tanks, as well as their emergency supplies, in order to achieve the altitude of the Polar Plateau. However, the flight was successful, and it entered Byrd into the history books. After a further summer of exploration, the expedition returned to North America on June 18, 1930. This expedition was honored with the gold medal of the American Geographical Society.

    In the wake of his success Admiral Byrd was wildly popular and interest in his expedition did not diminish. In 1932, City of New York was sailed through the Great Lakes to the site of the Chicago World's Fair. There, the ship was outfitted with artifacts of the expedition, and served as a floating museum throughout the fair.

    In 1944, legendary yachtsman Lou Kennedy, bought City of New York, and converted her into a three-masted schooner. During the refitting, Kennedy discovered the ship's wheel, binnacle (compass), and bell were all original equipment on Samson. Each piece is marked "Samson"; the wheel on the back of the hub; the binnacle on the inside cap; and, the ship's bell on the back of the mounting bracket. When the ship was refitted and renamed by Admiral Byrd in 1927 he retained the original pieces, but had the bell and wheel engraved with the ship's new name, City of New York.

    Captain Kennedy operated the City of New York as a cargo ship along the Atlantic seaboard until 1952, when it was sold. Kennedy, keenly aware of the historical significance of the wheel, binnacle, and bell, replaced them and kept the originals. He also kept an intricately knotted ceremonial bell-pull used to ring President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard City of New York when he visited the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. The old ship burned and sank in 1953 ending a long career where she played a role in some of the twentieth century's greatest sea tragedies and triumphs.

    The ship's wheel is 51" in diameter. The binnacle (compass) stands 14" high. The ship's bell is 10" in diameter. The bell pull is 21" long. All four pieces can be mounted on a 90" high wood display stand, which the buyer of this lot may have included if packing and shipping charges are paid.

    This marvelous grouping not only has wonderful display appeal, but must rank among the more important and evocative mementos of twentieth century maritime history.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2010
    17th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,110

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