Polar, Planes, and Puppies: The Photos of E.J. Demas

Though the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition took place more than twenty years after the likes of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, little had changed when it came to the available methods of transportation. Explorer Richard E. Byrd had large tractors to move supplies, but still relied heavily on dog sleds, skis, and schooners ships, which were used in the polar regions by generations of explorers. What Byrd had over Shackleton was the power of flight; Byrd was among the first to fly aircraft in the polar regions. This changed both the speed and safety of polar exploration and created a contrast of new and old.

This photograph appears in the 1926-1927 photo album of E.J. Demas. Original caption: City of New York under full sail. Local identifier: XEJD-DEJ-01-01-50

These collections (National Archives Identifiers:45648677 and 45648792) were donated to the Archives by E.J. Demas, who served as an airplane mechanic with Byrd from 1926-1935, as support for his 1926 North Pole flight, 1927 Trans-Atlantic flight, and the two Byrd Antarctic Expeditions from 1928-1930 and 1933-1935. Demas kept a record of the travels and hardships of the crews while on the Byrd expeditions. This material was recently transferred to the Still Picture Branch from the Textual Records Division.

E.J. Demas in front of the Floyd Bennett. Local indentifier: XEJD-DE-01-15-16

Featured below are images of the planes used, interesting photographs, and some adorable companions to the explorers.

Planes have somewhat eased the burden for those who choose to explore the coldest regions of the Earth. However, for those who choose to admire from afar, planes give scale while taking none of the beauty away from these places.


Original Caption: Admiral Byrd’s flagship City of New York docked at the bay ice in the Bay of Whales. Local identifier: XEJD-DE-02-02-01

This entry was posted in Aerial Photography, Graphic Materials, Photographs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Polar, Planes, and Puppies: The Photos of E.J. Demas

  1. Grant says:

    Fascinating. Thank you for everything you’re doing and for this website. What a treasure.


  2. We’re so happy to see this wonderful post about both the revolutionary use of planes and the cutest members of the expeditions! The Ohio State University has the archives of Admiral Byrd and other polar explorers through the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program. We have tons of photos and material relating to anything and everything polar. To learn more visit our website: https://library.osu.edu/find/collections/byrd-polar-archives/


  3. This is fantastic! I hope that more and more people from later times also share their photos. My Dad was on US Pine Island in 1946-1947.


  4. What’s cool is that we’re getting more and more footage from drones in places that are hard to get to, even with helicopters. You can hike out, bring out a small drone, and get the same kind of aerial photography that used to be prohibitively expensive.


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