Sep 27, 2018 - Sale 2486

Sale 2486 - Lot 225

Price Realized: $ 1,105
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Estimate: $ 400 - $ 600
"MY FEELINGS FOR COMDR. BYRD HAS TURNED TO A BITTER HATRED" (ANTARCTICA.) Konter, Richard W. Group of letters from Byrd's First Antarctic Expedition. 17 letters to Dr. K.N. Donally, various sizes and conditions, 3 of them postmarked letter cards, plus 6 stamped and postmarked envelopes (2 of them bearing inked stamps from the Byrd Antarctic Expedition). New Zealand and Antarctica, December 1928 to March 1930 and undated

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Richard Wesley Konter (1882–1979) was a veteran radio operator in the United States Navy, and accompanied Admiral Byrd as chief radioman on his 1926 expedition to the Arctic and then to Antarctica from 1928 to 1930. During this expedition, Antarctica's Konter Cliffs were named in his honor. He wrote these letters to New York City dentist Kingman Neil Donally (1896-1980), a trusted friend who was managing his stateside affairs and held his power of attorney.
Konter arrived in Antarctica in January 1929, and on 15 January wrote what would prove to be his only letter from the frozen continent: "This ship may be frozen in . . . when frozen in a bay or shelter, the chances for being crushed are slim. We see miles of ice pass us almost every day and know now why a ship can easily be crushed." The letter is accompanied by its envelope with the expedition's postmark and a typed message: "We are living on an Ice Barrier at the Bay of Whales in the most southerly American village in the world."
Konter had some sort of disagreement with Byrd and was made to spend the southern winter in New Zealand with some other crew members in mid-1929. He wrote on 3 October: "My feelings for Comdr. Byrd has turned to a bitter hatred and the only reason I am sticking is that I want to be sure that the gang is safely off the ice. . . . All I want is peace after this farce comedy is over. . . . He surrounded himself with a staff of rats, and while they can do as they please, the rest cannot make a move without the great comdr knowing it." On the day they left to return to Antarctica, 5 January 1930, he wrote "I never want to connect myself with anything that was run as sloppy and filthy as this one, regardless of the great success, which was all pure luck more than good management." Konter later did return to Antarctica. His 30 March 1930 letter, on an illustrated expedition letterhead, describes a rough journey back to New Zealand: "We ran into all kinds of heavy gales, the seas freezing over us as fast as they hit us, and it was estimated that over 200 tons had frozen to us, which kept us uncomfortable as we are only 500 tons ourselves. The gang had to chop night and day." He apparently moved beyond his bitter hatred of Byrd: "I laid my troubles before the Admiral, and he is now trying to adjust everything and ease my feelings, is more like a big brother to me than anything else."