Updated 9-21-2009

November 2009 Column
Same 'Old Radio's, same 'Old Stories', same 'Old Place', only the name has changed .


Bud Waite, W2ZK, Polar Pioneer (SK)

I first heard about Bud Waite from some of the older hams when I was much younger. He was well known around the tri-state area for visiting local ham clubs and presenting interesting talks about his adventures in Antarctica with Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

Bud was born in 1902, in Newton, Massachusetts. As a young boy he taught himself about electricity by reading books from the library. With three buddies he erected wires stretching about a mile between their houses so they could talk together using telegraph and Morse code. Entering the Navy in 1919 he studied radio. After four years in the service he entered Lowell Institute and later MIT. In 1926 he helped build the first State Police Radio Station in Massachusetts.

Bud Waite retired to Venice, Florida, set up a ham station and spent his final days hamming and diving for ancient fossils in the warm waters just off of his new home. He died in 1984.

Keeping busy during the long night.

Byrd figured he could find more sponsors for the expedition if he could broadcast from Antarctica directly into the homes of America. He approached CBS and set the wheels in motion. Having heard of the success of a new company in Iowa called Collins Radio (he remembered Art), he contacted the still young Art Collins and arranged for Art to build special transmitters, strong enough to broadcast directly from Byrd’s base in Antarctica, through a relay in Buenos Aires to Long Island and then into the CBS network. Art built a custom 20B, a 1-KW refrigerator sized transmitter and two 100-watt 150B transmitters for Byrd.

Click to hear the surviving Broadcast (MP3 - 2.6mb)

(right) The Collins Transmitters that went to Antarctia with Waite & Byrd

The Collins 20B on the right; the transmitter
used for broadcasts

Photo by Bud Waite

Richard E. Byrd

During the Antarctic winter of 1934, Byrd elected to spend it alone at the Advanced Base taking weather observations. As time went by, from March into June, he was loosing his strength. He didn’t know it, but carbon monoxide poisoning, probably from his stove was living with him. Back at the base Waite and others realized something was wrong as Byrd’s communications became erratic and did not make sense. Waite and two others set out on a rescue mission in the dead of the Antarctic night. It took three attempts to finally arrive at Byrd’s camp, due to drifting snow, tractors falling into hidden crevasses and -75 degree blizzard temperatures.

Pete Demas, Dr. Thomas Poulter and Bud Waite depart for the third time to Rescue Byrd.

John Dilks, K2TQN    125 Warf Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234-8501   e-mail: K2TQN@arrl.net