First women at Pole

photo courtesy BillyAce 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 was made it to their research site, they were put on the list of Pole tourists, with much media hype...at 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.

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

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.
...from The New Explorers, Women in Antarctica by Barbara Land, © 1981 by Barbara Land, published by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York.
[Here's Jean Pearson's story with photos from the Detroit News]

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).

High resolution images of these photos are available upon request.



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