First women at Pole

the women and RADM Welch deplane
(above photo courtesy Billy-Ace Baker)

The rest of the story can be shared thanks to Rear Admiral Kelly Welch, who as Commander, Naval Support Force Antarctica got to accompany this group on their travels...he shared the following photos with me.

Lois Jones was a geologist at Ohio State University who obtained her Ph.D by studying samples obtained by others in the Antarctic. In the late 1960's it was still unthinkable for female scientists to actually travel to the ice, but that was about to change. Lois submitted a proposal involving field work in the Dry Valleys with an all-female research team (so to dispel Navy opposition to females in field parties) and it was accepted. So they went to McMurdo and the shores of Lake Vanda in the 1969-70 season, the first female research team to work on the ice.

But before the group would made it to their research site, they were put on the list of Pole tourists, with much media the time there were 7 women on the ice. This included the four members of Lois' team, Christine Müller-Schwarze who was studying penguins at Cape Crozier, Pam Young, a NZ biologist, and Jean Pearson, then a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Christine declined the trip because it would interrupt her research, but the other 6 women headed south on an LC-130 on 12 November 1969. The aircraft was piloted by already-distinguished pilot LCDR Jack Paulus, who would later have the South Pole skiway named in his honor.

Their arms linked together, they stepped off the ramp simultaneously...walked around the Pole, posed for pictures, and flew back to McM, where they eventually ended up at their field sites.

Click on each picture for the enlarged version with Kelly Welch's caption...

on ice
The 6 women and the Admiral set foot on the skiway...

ceremonial at Pole
A bit later at the Ceremonial Pole

womens club
Another closeup of the female group

Some later commentary:
Once the plane landed, the women were instructed to wait. A huge cargo ramp was lowered from the belly of the plane and the bay doors opened wide. Then, with cameras clicking, the six women marched down the ramp, arm-in-arm, and stepped simultaneously onto the ice.
Every step was recorded. At the symbolic, mirror-topped "Pole," the women were photographed shaking hands with the admiral. On a guided tour of the base they were followed by cameras. After lunch and a little conversation with the men stationed at the Pole, they boarded the supply plane again and returned to McMurdo.
The above quote is from The New Explorers, Women in Antarctica by Barbara Land, © 1981 by Barbara Land, published by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. More information: an archive of Jean Pearson's story with photos, originally published in 1999 in the Detroit News. which is no longer online.

Below, two more photos shared by RADM Kelly Welch with links quoting his captions:

tenting tonight
Later in the summer, Lois's home on the shores of Lake Vanda

cool cool water
Taking water samples from the Vanda River

Additional information on this page was obtained from Women on the Ice, by Elizabeth Chipman, © Melbourne University Press, 1986 (this book is highly recommended as a reference, it includes a complete list of all women known to visit Antarctica up to 1983).

An update 50 years on...The Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University held a symposium "Women in Antarctica--Celebrating 50 Years of Exploration" on 17-18 October 2019...which I attended. It was a great event...the 100+ attendees were perhaps 70% women! The talks included presentations by two of the surviving members of Lois Jones' research team--Terry Tickhill Terrell and Eileen McSaveney. The symposium was also highlighted in this Antarctic Sun article "50 Years of Women in Antarctica."

Higher resolution images of the color photos on this page are available upon request.