Richard R. Byrd developed his passion for the airplane when he served in the Navy as a flight instructor during World War I. In 1926, he became the first to fly over the North Pole, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor for his efforts. When asked what his next plans were, Byrd said, “Fly over the South Pole.”
In 1928, Byrd did just that as he and his crew battled high winds, frigid temperatures and unknown territory. Navigation presented the most difficulty, since magnetic compasses were useless due to the magnetism of the Pole. The solution was the sun compass first patented in 1917. (Byrd’s compass was created for his exploration by the National Geographic Society.)
Byrd’s successful flight and exploration of Antarctica was followed by eleven more, of which Byrd was a major player in five of them.