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eMedals-The Geographic Society Helen Culver Gold Medal

Item: W01270

The Geographic Society Helen Culver Gold Medal

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The Geographic Society Helen Culver Gold Medal

The Geographic Society Helen Culver Gold Medal - .900 GOLD, 6.5 oz. Pure Gold, weighing 224.6 grams, left-facing bust of Helen Culver and inscribed "THE HELEN CULVER MEDAL FOUNDED A.D. 1907" on the obverse, scroll backed by a globe in the centre, scroll engraved "AWARDED TO RICHARD E. BYRD FOR FIRST ACHIEVEMENT OF THE NORTH POLE BY AIR", date engraved "JUNE 11-1926." and inscribed "THE GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY OF CHICAGO" on the reverse, 63.5 mm, extremely fine. In its hardshelled case of issue, pebbled exterior, purple velvet medal frame, with lift tab enabling to expose the reverse side without removal from the frame, case also extremely fine.   Footnote: Helen Culver was born in 1832, and was a successful real estate developer and philanthropist. She owned Hull House and rented it to Jane Addams, before later giving the property to Addams along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations, contributing substantially to founding the comprehensive settlement-house movement in the United States. She was a trustee of Hull House until 1898. From 1868 to 1889 Culver worked with her cousin, Charles Hull, in his real estate ventures in Chicago and around the country and when Hull died in 1889, Culver inherited the real estate business. Besides backing Jane Addams, Culver supported several other important scholarly causes, including giving over $1.1 million to the Univeristy of Chicago, making her one of the University's most important early donors. The Helen Culver Gold Medal was inaugurated by the GSC in 1907 for recognition of valuable contributions to the science of geography. The first recipient was the famous Norwegian scientist, explorer, and specialist in the Earth's magnetism, Roald Amundsen,who spoke about his recently completed adventures exploring the Northwest Passage. Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr., United States Navy (October 25, 1888 – March 11,1957) was an American naval officer who specialized in feats of exploration. He was a pioneering American aviator, polar explorer, and organizer of polar logistics. Aircraft flights, in which he served as a navigator and expedition leader, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a segment of the Arctic Ocean, and a segment of the Antarctic Plateau. Byrd claimed that his expeditions had been the first to reach the North Pole and the South Pole by air. His South Pole claim is generally supported by a consensus of those who have examined the evidence. Byrd was a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest honor for heroism given by the United States. On May 9, 1926, Byrd and pilot Floyd Bennett attempted a flight over the North Pole in a Fokker F-VII Tri-motor called the Josephine Ford. This flight went from Spitsbergen (Svalbard) and back to its take-off airfield. Byrd claimed to have reached the Pole. This trip earned Byrd widespread acclaim, including being awarded the Medal of Honor and enabled him to secure funding for subsequent attempts to fly over the South Pole. From 1926 until 1996, there were doubts, defenses, and heated controversy about whether or not Byrd actually reached the North Pole. In 1958 Norwegian-American aviator and explorer Bernt Balchen cast doubt on Byrd's claim on the basis of his extensive personal knowledge of the airplane's speed. In 1971 Balchen speculated that Byrd had simply circled aimlessly while out of sight of land. However, Floyd Bennett, the pilot on the trip never contested that they didn't reach the pole while he was still alive (Bennett would pass away in 1928). Simply put, the barren vicinity that the Josephine Ford reached was considered at the time, the geographical North Pole, rather than the pinpoint North Pole. The 1996 release of Byrd's diary of the May 9, 1926 flight revealed erased, but still legible, sextant sights that sharply differ with Byrd's later June 22nd typewritten official report to the National Geographic Society. Byrd took a sextant reading of the Sun at 7:07:10 GCT. His erased diary record shows the apparent (observed) solar altitude to have been 19°25'30", while his later official typescript reports the same 7:07:10 apparent solar altitude to have been 18°18'18". On the basis of this and other data in the diary, Dennis Rawlins concluded that Byrd steered accurately, and flew about 80% of the distance to the Pole before turning back because of an engine oil leak, but later falsified his official report to support his claim of reaching the pole. Others disagree with Rawlins. In 1998, Colonel William Molett, an experienced navigator published "Due north?". Molett maintained that Rawlins had put too much significance in erased navigational calculations which can be explained by any number of other reasons, including favorable windspeeds as well as simple human error due to lack of sleep and stress. Accepting that the conflicting data in the typed report's flight times indeed require both northward and southward groundspeeds greater than the flight's 85 mph airspeed, a remaining Byrd defender posits a westerly-moving anti-cyclone that tailwind-boosted Byrd's groundspeed on both outward and inward legs, allowing the distance claimed to be covered in the time claimed. (The theory is based on rejecting handwritten sextant data in favor of typewritten alleged dead-reckoning data). This suggestion has been refuted by Dennis Rawlins who adds that the sextant data in the long unavailable original official typewritten report are all expressed to one inch, a precision not possible on Navy sextants of 1926 and not the precision of the sextant data in Byrd's diary for 1925 or the 1926 flight, which was normal (half or quarter of a minute of arc). Some sources claim that Floyd Bennett and Byrd later revealed, in private conversations, that they did not reach the pole. One source claims that Floyd Bennett later told a fellow pilot that they did not reach the pole. It is also claimed that Byrd confessed his failure to reach the North Pole during a long walk with Dr. Isaiah Bowman in 1930. If Byrd and Bennett did not reach the North Pole, it is extremely likely that the first flight over the Pole occurred a few days later, on May 12, 1926 with the flight of the airship Norge and its crew of Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile, Oscar Wisting, and others. This flight went from Spitsbergen (Svalbard) to Alaska nonstop, so there is little doubt that they went over the North Pole. Amundsen and Wisting had both been members of the first expedition to the South Pole, December 1911. In 1928, Admiral Byrd began his first expedition to the Antarctic involving two ships, and three airplanes: Byrd's Flagship was The City of New York (a Norwegian sealing ship previously named Samson that had come into fame as a ship in the vicinity of  Titanic when the latter was sinking); a Ford Trimotor called the Floyd Bennett (named after the recently deceased pilot of Byrd's previous expeditions); a Fairchild FC-2W2, NX8006, built 1928, named "Stars And Stripes"; and a Fokker Universal monoplane called the Virginia (Byrd's birth state). A base camp named "Little America" was constructed on the Ross Ice Shelf and scientific expeditions by snowshoe, dog-sled, 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 pilot Bernt Balchen, co-pilot/radioman Harold June, and photographer Ashley McKinley, flew the Ford Trimotor 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. A nineteen year-old American Boy Scout, Paul Allman Siple, was chosen to accompany the expedition. Unlike the 1926 flight, this expedition was honoured with the gold medal of the American Geographical Society. Byrd, by then an internationally recognized, pioneering American polar explorer and aviator, served for a time as Honorary National President (1931–1935) of Pi Gamma Mu, the international honour society in the social sciences. In 1928, he carried the Society's flag during a historic expedition to the Antarctic to dramatize the spirit of adventure into the unknown, characterizing both the natural and social sciences. Rear Admiral Richard Byrd was presented with the GSC Gold Medal for his achievement in flying to the South Pole in 1930.
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