1935, Caroline Mikkelsen, wife of a Norwegian whaling captain,
became the first known woman to set foot, briefly, in Antarcticabut
not the first person. A man had stepped onto the continent
more than a hundred years earlier, and men had begun the "heroic
era" of Antarctic exploration decades before. Its
only recently that women have arrived, literally and figuratively,
on The Ice.
first women to winter on the continent, half a century after
the first men, were Americans Edith Ronne and Jennie Darlington,
wives of Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition members. Writing
about her 1947 adventures in My Antarctic Honeymoon,
Darlington lamented: "Taking everything into consideration,
I do not think women belong in Antarctica."
researchers relaxing at McMurdo Station.
wasnt alone in this sentiment. For centuries, many men
(and women) believed that Antarcticas punishing environment
would be too tough for "the weaker sex" to endure.
Some people also believed women would crumble in a crisis,
fight with each other, complain of boredom, or instigate sexual
encounters. In the twentieth century, the argument was added
that there were no facilities for women. These attitudes were
enough to keep women out of Antarctica for a very long time.
the 1950s, only one woman, a Russian marine geologist named
Marie V. Klenova, made it ashore. Russian women had sailed
on whaling ships in Antarcticas oceans earlier in the
century, paving the way for the countrys female scientists.
Klenova joined a Soviet oceanographic team on a Russian icebreaker
in 1956, mapping unchartered areas of the Antarctic coastline
and coming ashore periodically at a Russian base. Eventually,
Klenovas research helped form the first Antarctic atlas,
published by the Soviet Union.