Explorers, Daredevils & Record Setters 
Though times were tough the people of the Dirty 30s always had heroes to look upon to give them much needed inspiration, whether it be Howard Hughes or Amelia Earhart with their record setting aviation feats, Commander Gatti's expedition into the African Congo, or Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's expeditions into Antarctica.

The Daredevils and Record Setters

Howard R. Hughes, Jr., was one of America's most famous billionaires. Part of that fame came from his movie making ventures which included films like Hell's Angels, Scarface and The Outlaw with Jane Russell. Another part of that fame came by setting world aviation records. In the Hughes H-1 Racer, that he designed, he set the straightway speed record of 212 miles per hour in 1933, world speed record of 352 mph in 1935, and a coast-to-coast record of seven hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds in 1937. Using a Lockheed Super Electra, Huges flew around the globe in 91 hours in 1938.
Wiley Post was one of the most celebrated pilots in aviation history. He set two trans-global speed records during the 1930s in a Lockheed Vega nicknamed Winnie Mae, one in 1931 with co-pilot Harold Gatty, and the other in 1933 where he became the first man to fly around the world solo. After the first flight he and Gatty published an account of their flight titled Around the World in Eight Days. Another significant accomplishment was the invention of the first pressure suit in 1934 that allowed him to fly the Winnie Mae into the stratosphere. Post died in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska with humorist and friend Will Rogers.
Amelia Earhart, probably the most famous female aviator, became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, in 1928, under sponsorship of Amy Guest who decided it was too dangerous to do the feat herself. In 1930, Amelia becomes the first president of the 99s, the Association of Female Aviators. In the 30s Amelia set the world altitude record of 18,415 feet, was the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person to solo from Hawaii to California. In 1937 she began her fateful round-the-world flight in a Lockheed L-10E Electra, she would not be the first to circumvent the globe, but her flight would be the longest because of the route she would take. 22,000 miles into the 29,000 mile flight she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.
Charles Lindbergh, whose initial claim to fame came from the first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, was in the spotlight for a completely different reason in the early 30s. His infant son was kidnapped from their home in New Jersey and found murdered in a field after a ten week search. Three years later the murderer was captured and put to death in New Jersey. The Lindbergh's, still mourning the loss of their son, moved to Europe to escape the publicity.

Admiral Robert Byrd and the Antarctica expeditions

Admiral Robert Byrdís first expedition, where he flew to the South Pole and back and established the Little America Research base on the Ross Ice Shelf, ended in 1930. 4 years later Byrd spent five winter months alone operating a meteorological station 123 miles inland from the Little America Research Center called Advance Base, where he almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater. He was rescued after his colleagues back at Little America noticed something wrong with his radio messages and made the treacherous trek across the frozen wasteland.

In late 1938, Byrd visited Hamburg and was invited to participate in the 1938/1939 German "Neuschwabenland" Antarctic Expedition, but declined.

Byrdís third expedition was the first backed by the US Government where the project included extensive studies of geology, biology, meteorology and exploration. Because of the outbreak of WWII Admiral Byrd was recalled after a few months.

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser (aka Penguin)

Towards the waning months of 1939, a massive 55ft long, 75,000 lbs. vehicle rolled out onto Chicago streets en route to its final destination... Antarctica. The theory was that scientists would live and work while driving across the harsh frozen landscape on its huge tires. Unfortunately, thatís not how it turned out.
The vehicle was designed by Thomas C. Poulter based on difficulties experienced during the rescue of the 2nd Byrd expedition. This vehicle, designed for the third polar expedition, would support 5 people for one year and traverse 5000 miles. The vehicle arrived in Antarctica early in January of 1940, where assumptions about traction were found to be wrong, as the giant wheels spun out most of the time and the Underpowered Engines would overheat after traveling just a few hundred feet. The cruiser was abandoned when the expedition left Antarctica in early 1941.

Commander Gattiís expedition

Attilio Gatti, an Italian, World War I army officer, author, film-maker and explorer first set out to explore Africa in 1924. By the time he set out for his "final expedition" in 1938 he had already led 9 previous expeditions, one of those resulting in the 1927 film Siliva the Zulu. It was because of these films, plus his adventure writings in magazines like the Saturday Evening Post that he was able to obtain financing to further his travels. Exploits if his 10th expedition were later published in 1945 as South of the Sahara.

For this expedition into to Africa Congo, International Harvester specially produced the "Jungle Yachts" which were trucks and truck/trailer combinations. The 5 vehicles combined traversed 66,000 miles, almost none of it on pavement, and only experienced minor breakdowns, totaling $38.00.

To prevent the expedition from becoming a political nightmare, Gatti pulled his expedition out of Africa after only 15 months when WWII broke out

German Exploration

Even the Nazis got into the exploration act. Himmler, a member of the Thule society and leader of the SS, formed the Ahnenerbe (German Ancestry - Research and Teaching Society) in 1935. The organization's goal was to "promote the science of ancient intellectual history", using scientific, anthropological and archaeological evidence to find the origins of the Aryan race. This evidence was to be gathered by sponsoring various expeditions to find the Holy Grail and The lost cities of Atlantis and Shambhala. These quests took the Nazis to South America to study Indian Medicines, Sweden to study ancient ideograms, The Middle East to study the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Semites and finally in 1938 to Tibet under official invite by the Tibetan Government who wanted to solidify their relationship with the Germans. Himmler went to Tibet believing it to be the likely home of the survivors of the mythic Thule race.

Not to be outdone by the Americans, the Germans laid claim to a 232,000 sq mile area of Antarctica as "Neuschwabenland" in 1938. Unlike the American's scientific bent to their expeditions, the purpose was to secure an area in Antarctica for a German whaling station, to increase Germany's production of whale oil and to eliminate the need for importing the raw material from Norway.


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