Among Many Others.

The early human history of Antarctica is history of firsts, performed and written by men.  After the early explorers, guys like Scott, and Amundsen, and Shackleton, many of the post-World War II research stations such as McMurdo and South Pole Station, were set up for use by scientists, but the logistics was provided by the US Navy, and the culture remained very much male-dominated through the International Geophysical Year.

At the beginning of the 1969-1970 field season, in early spring (November) Dr. Lois Jones, an Ohio State University geologist, proposed doing field work at Vanda Lake in the Dry Valleys.  The Navy objected, arguing that mixed-gender field teams were "bad for discipline", which surely said more about Navy culture than it did about the scientists!  :-)  Under pressure from the media, the Navy relented, with the stipulation that the field team be all female.

So Dr. Jones assembled a team of herself, Eileen McSaveny, Kay Lindsay, and Terry Tickhill.  As usual for an Antarctic research team travelling from the US, they flew to New Zealand to draw their gear, then to McMurdo.  The Navy had at this point decided get some positive publicity out of this, and the team, along with the other three women in Antarctica at the time, were to play tourists for a day at South Pole Station.  The other three were a biologist from New Zealand, Pam young, a reporter from Detroit, Jean Pearson, and Christine Muller-Schwarze, a biologist studying penguins at Cape Crozier.    Muller-Schwarze was already at work in the field, and declined the Pole trip, but the others accepted.  Reporters bombarded the Navy with one question.  Which of the women would step off the plane first, becoming the first woman at the South Pole?

The women solved the question in a way that puts Scott and Amundsen to shame.  Inviting their host, Rear Admiral D. F. (Kelly) Welch to join them, they waited in the plane until the broad rear loading ramp was lowered, then linked arms and all stepped off...together.

Then they took group pictures, had lunch, got back on the plane, and went back to McMurdo, from which they could head to Lake Vanda and start work.


Sadly, I have yet to locate the results of her research.  If anyone know of her work, please let me know.

EBunbury EBunbury
46-50, M
Mar 3, 2009