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Meet an Antarctic Ambassador REWIND

It has been more than 200 years since Antarctica was discovered. On this page we honour the pioneers of Antarctic exploration – the original Antarctic Ambassadors. For Women’s History Month 2021, we launched this page with the women who have made Antarctic history. Click on an image to find out more about these inspirational historic figures.

Antarctic Ambassador REWIND

Maria Klenova

First woman to carry out scientific work in her own discipline in Antarctica

Hello! My name is Maria Vasilyevna Klenova and I was born in Russia in 1898. After graduating with a science degree from Moscow State University in 1924, I started my career as a marine geologist onboard a Soviet research vessel in the regions around Novaya Zemlya, Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. The polar world captivated me early on. I completed the first seabed map of the Barents Sea and conducted research in seabed geology in Antarctica and in the Arctic. 

A member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, I joined the First Soviet Antarctic Expedition (1955-57) on the eve of the International Geophysical Year. It was a large expedition with over 100 staff and its main objectives were to establish Mirny, the first Russian research base in Queen Mary Land on the Antarctic coast of the Davis Sea, and conduct geographical studies. Travelling onboard the icebreakers Ob and Lena, my work collecting oceanographic measurements contributed to the creation of the first Antarctic atlas.  I was the first woman to carry out a program of scientific work in my own discipline in Antarctica and was also the first woman scientist to go ashore when the Ob visited Macquarie Island.

I am remembered as a pioneer of marine geology and was lucky enough to have several geographical features named after me including Klenova Peak in Antarctica, Klenova Valley in Russia, Klenova Seamount near Brazil and the Klenova Crater on Venus.

Caroline Mikkelsen

First woman to set foot on an Antarctic island

Hello! My name is Caroline Mikkelsen and I was born in Denmark in 1906.  My first husband was Norwegian ship captain Klarius Mikkelsen.  Klarius worked for the well-respected ship owner Lars Christensen who hired him to conduct exploration work in Antarctica. I had an adventurous spirit and accompanied my husband on several of his trips there. In 1934-35, we travelled south on the supply ship Thorshavn looking for lands that could be annexed for Norway. On February 20, 1935 after a thrilling voyage, we landed in Antarctica. There we raised the Norwegian flag and erected a rock cairn, now  known as Mikkelsen’s Cairn.  Australian researchers later proved that we had landed on the Tryne Islands, Vesthold Hills, not far from the modern-day Davis Station run by the Australian Antarctic Division. Today, I am regarded as the first woman to set foot on an Antarctic island. 

My husband Klarius died in 1941 and there were no more opportunities for me to visit Antarctica. In fact I did not speak of my Antarctic adventures again until sixty years later when another modern-day Antarctic pioneer, Diana Patterson, leader of Davis Station and the first woman to be in charge of an Australian station, tracked me down. 

Mount Caroline Mikkelsen on the Ingrid Christensen Coast is named after me.

Dr. Lois Jones

Led the first all-female research team with the United States Antarctic Research Program to Antarctica

MEET AN ANTARCTIC AMBASSADOR – REWIND | Hello! I’m Dr. Lois Jones and I was born in Westerville, Ohio, United States in 1934. I completed my Bachelor of Science and my Master’s of Science degrees in chemistry at the Ohio State University. I also did my doctorate in geology there and my dissertation focused on the Dry Valleys in Antarctica. But at that time the U.S. Navy still prevented women scientists from going to Antarctica so I had to rely on field samples and data brought back by men. It was frustrating! Only a short time later, with the support of a mentor Colin Bull, my research proposal was accepted. In the 1960-70 season, I led the first all-female research team with the United States Antarctic Research Program to Antarctica. Based in the Wright Valley, our resourceful team included Eileen McSaveney, Kay Lindsay and Terry Lee Tickhill. We were also the first women to visit the South Pole on November 12, 1969. After the conclusion of our expedition, the U.S. Navy changed their policy and began allowing women to work at McMurdo Station.

I worked as a geochemist and lecturer for many years and endowed the Lois M. Jones Fellowship Fund in Geological Sciences and the Lois M. Jones Endowment for Cancer Research Fellowship at the Ohio State University. The Jones Terrace in the Antarctic Olympus Range was named after me.

Edith Ronne

First woman to over-winter in Antarctica

Hello! My name is Jackie “Edith” Ronne and I was born in 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. I met my future husband, Antarctic explorer Finn Ronne on a blind date and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him… and Antarctica! Finn had already participated in several Byrd Antarctic expeditions and his father, Martin Rønne had sailed with the great Roald Amundsen. After we married, Finn shared ambitious plans for his own Antarctic expedition. When the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition finally set sail for Antarctica in 1946, Finn asked me to come along. I convinced  one of the pilot’s wives to accompany us – despite strong opposition from rest of the (all-male) team. 

The year and a half living and working at East Base, Stonington Island in Marguerite Bay off the Antarctic Peninsula was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Jennie and I were the first women to over-winter in Antarctica and I was the first American woman actively taking part in an Antarctic expedition. My work as a recorder-historian and research assistant was critical to the outcome of the expedition. Despite conflict within the group, the mission accomplished significant geographic discoveries including determining once and for all that Antarctica was one continent. 

After we returned to the United States, I gave lectures and wrote about Antarctica. “Edith Ronne Land” was named after me but the name was later changed to “Ronne Ice Shelf.” Although I am usually only remembered as the wife of Finn Ronne, I was an accomplished Antarctic adventurer in my own right!

Ingrid Christensen

First woman to set foot on the Antarctic mainland

Hello! My name is Ingrid Christensen and I was born in 1891 in Norway. My marriage at the age of 19 to Lars Christensen, united two of the most powerful ship-owning families in Sandefjord. Lars always had a strong interest in Antarctica and this was something that we shared during our long and happy marriage. You may not know that the famous vessel Endurance was actually built for Lars, but he decided to sell it to Ernest Shackleton. 

During the 1930s, Lars sailed many times to Antarctica and I went with him on at least four trips. In the spring of 1931, Lars and I sailed on the Thorshavn to Antarctica. My friend Mathilde Wegger was with me. What an experience! Mathilde and I were even sighted by the Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson during the BANZARE expedition.

I sailed again to Antarctica in 1933 and in 1933-34. On my fourth and final trip in 1936-37, I sailed with my daughter Augusta Sofie Christensen, Lillemore Rachlew and Solveig Widerøe. On January 30, 1937, I became the first woman to set foot on the Antarctic mainland when we landed at Scullin Monolith.  I also was flown over the mainland and became the first woman to see Antarctica from the air. Today I am regarded as the first woman to stand on the Antarctic mainland.

For my accomplishments, the Ingrid Christensen Coast in East Antarctica was named after me and the Four Ladies Bank commemorated the 1937 landing by myself, my daughter and our friends Lillemore and Solveig.