Paul Siple, a nineteen-year-old Eagle Scout in Erie, Pennsylvania, was one of thousands who applied to join Admiral Byrd’s expedition in 1928.
Byrd asked the Boy Scouts of America to help him select one Scout to take on the year and a half exploration of Antarctica. Local committees vetted applications and forwarded 88 to the national office. These 88 were winnowed down to six candidates who would meet with Byrd in New York City.
Siple’s considerable accomplishments as a Scout and his extensive experience camping put him in the final six.
The candidates submitted to ten days of rigorous testing and extensive interviews with various experts. The experts issued their recommendations but Byrd ingeniously settled the question of who would be selected for the expedition by asking the candidates themselves.
Aboard the sailing ship (The City of New York) that would take the expedition to the pole the six Scouts were asked to write the names of two of their fellow candidates they would like to go with them should three, instead of one, places become available.
Paul Siple was selected by five of his fellow Scouts, making him the obvious choice.
Siple distinguished himself during the expedition and became one of Byrd’s most trusted men. He was invited on subsequent expeditions with Byrd and went on to become one of the world’s preeminent polar scientists who developed the formula for the measurement of wind chill factor.
Here is Siple some thirty years later in an Army Signal Corps film relating his experiences and how Scouting shaped his life as an adult.
Here’s an short biography of Siple
Siple’s remarkable story deserves to be retold to our Scouts; here’s some resources that you may find useful
Here’s a PDF copy of two Boy’s Life Articles, one from 1928 about Siple’s section to the expedition, and one from 1930 written by Siple about his adventure.
Siple published his diary of the expedition in A Boy Scout With Byrd (1931) and went on to write Exploring at Home (1932), Scout to Explorer: Back with Byrd in the Antarctic (1936) and 90 Degrees South (1959). All are out of print but used editions are available from Amazon:
A Boy Scout With Byrd
Exploring at home
Scout to Explorer: Back with Byrd in the Antarctic
90 South (90 Degrees South) – The Story Of The American South Pole Conquest
Although I have not read it here’s a recent book about Siple:
Eagle on Ice: Eagle Scout Paul Siple’s Antarctic Adventures with Commander Byrd
Siple’s adventures are also mentioned in Four Percent: The Story of Uncommon Youth in a Century of American Life
Walter Underwood says
There is a neat museum at Worth Scout Ranch in Texas. It was a little cooler inside there than outside, so I spent some time looking around. Hey, Paul Siple’s snowshoes!
Michael S. Malone says
A great Eagle and a great man. I felt honored just writing about the guy. Gen. Ridgeway credited Siple with helping save the U.S. troops in Korea with his research into cold weather gear. My family has grown tired of me pointing out, every time they mention “wind chill” at an NFL game, that it was Siple’s creation.
A few other Eagles may have done greater things (Jerry Ford, Neil Armstrong), but Siple remains the beau ideal of Eagle Scouts over the last century.