Overflying The North Pole

13th April 2010, 11:38
An RAF pilot flying Catalina FB's based at Sullom Voe had a desire to overfly the Geographical North Pole. He received permission to attempt this flight when/if operational requirements permitted. Seeking polar navigation advice he arranged a visit to the Admiralty in London, without gleaning any useful information. He was an experienced pilot being engaged in air operations in Arctic regions. I have no knowledge of air navigation or what equipment would be fitted in a Catalina aircraft, and suspect that being wartime,
radio beacon guidance would be unavailable or unreliable. The magnetic compass would be useless in this latitude and whether the North seeking component of a Catalina gyro compass could be disengaged is beyond me. A reliable chronometer and sextant appear to be the only reliable aids, this would require good visibility and preferably daylight. Arctic sea ice would make any landing impractical. The period of time in the area would be obviously limited. Every since reading a book, written by one of his crew, about this brave pilotís experiences I have pondered how this would be done. I note that Rear Admiral Byrdís claim to fame in 1926 is now discredited. Amundsen is now accepted to be the first navigator to overfly the N. Pole in airship Norge. Sadly the pilot, perhaps RAAF, was killed on air operations off N. Norway/Russia. I have tried without success to trace the book. Any air navigators among members ?, advice would be welcome as to practical requirements in 1942.

Tony D
13th April 2010, 13:01
Is it ok i I copy and paste your post on another website Mr B? said website is frequented by many aviators and they may have the information you seek,questions of a similar nature are posted there all the time with a lot of success.

charles henry
13th April 2010, 13:36
Arctic sea ice would make any landing impractical.

The fact of the matter is that the "Arctiv area" is covered with small "lakes" which when frozen are smooth enough for landing small aircraft like the Catalina (Civilian name, "Canso")

During the building of the DEW line Initially Canso's and other small aircraft brought in basic equipment to such lakes which in turn allowed the clearing of larger runways allowing bigger planes.

I spent several years in the Canadian arctic and enjoyed every minute of it.
The terrain has a beauty of its own changing from summer to winter with a ploriferation of wild life that takes a practiced eye to see.

de Chas

Andrew Craig-Bennett
13th April 2010, 15:31
Off the point, but I've visited the "NORGE"'s mast and the adjacent memorial to Amundsen, who was killed during the search for the crew of the "ITALIA", at Ny-Alesund in Vestspitzbergen . It is quite moving, I recommend a visit.

Anyway, a Catalina could certainly take off and land on any of the Spitzbergen fjords in summer, provided one overflew first to make sure there were no calves or bergy bits or walruses in the way. It was SOP on the Imperial Airways flying boats in Africa to make a pass first to get the crocodiles and hippopotami out of the way.

Tony D
13th April 2010, 16:03
Found this,

13th April 2010, 16:51
Is it ok i I copy and paste your post on another website Mr B? said website is frequented by many aviators and they may have the information you seek,questions of a similar nature are posted there all the time with a lot of success.

Your input is welcome Tony, you go ahead. It would be interesting to find out by what means an airman would determine he had achieved the correct latitude by means of the instruments available in 1942, and perhaps more importantly, determine which direction to head to get back to base.

Tony D
13th April 2010, 17:01
If you click on that Telegraph link Mr B it has some information on the navigation methods used about halfway down the page.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
13th April 2010, 17:03
Found this,

Very interesting obituary. An impressive man.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but 600 miles from the Pole is 80 deg N which is the approximate summer limit of the pack ice north of Spitzbergen, thanks to the final washings of the North Atlantic Drift. The other statement of the obvious is that you can take a midnight mer. alt (reverse the declination) assuming you've got the sun visible.

I would suggest that August is late in the season for a Pole attempt, so I'm not very surprised about the weather. Earlier on the Arctic High would be more pronounced.

Tony D
13th April 2010, 17:06
This seems to be the book you are seeking Mr Binnacle.

13th April 2010, 20:03
It is indeed Tony, many thanks. Unfortunately it is no longer available at my local public library and am reluctant to stump up about GBP 15 for a second hand copy. They were all brave men.

Tony D
13th April 2010, 22:31
I admit it is a long time since I used my public library but in the past if you wanted a particular book and they did not have it on their shelves you could ask them if they could locate and borrow a copy for you from other libraries.
Might be worth a try

13th April 2010, 23:09
I hope this helps.........


wireless man
31st May 2010, 21:50
The book is Arctic Airmen by Ernest Schofield and Roy Conyers Nesbitt

1st June 2010, 23:33
A good overview of some of the issues involved with polar air navigation is given in this paper (http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic2-3-183.pdf)written in 1941. PDF reader required.