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Louise Arner Boyd

From: United States
Fields: Exploration and Adventure
Boyd, Louise Arner (1887-1972), American explorer of the Arctic Ocean and the first woman to fly over the North Pole. Boyd was born to a wealthy family in San Rafael, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Boyd inherited her family's fortune in 1920 and spent the next few years traveling in Europe. Her interest in polar exploration began in 1924 when she first visited Arctic regions aboard a Norwegian cruise ship. Two years later Boyd chartered a Norwegian ship and took a group of friends on a trip from Norway into the Arctic Ocean. They visited Franz Josef Land, the island chain north of European Russia, where they hunted polar bears and seals. In 1928 Boyd led an expedition to find Norwegian Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen, who had disappeared while flying a rescue mission in search of Italian explorer and engineer Umberto Nobile. Financing the venture herself, Boyd set out on behalf of the Norwegian government on a voyage across about 16,100 km (about 10,000 mi) of the Arctic Ocean, exploring from Franz Josef Land in the east to the Greenland Sea in the west. She was unable to find any trace of Amundsen, but for her efforts the Norwegian government awarded Boyd the Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav.

Beginning in 1931, Boyd undertook a series of nearly annual expeditions to the Arctic. That year she and an exploring party sailed to Greenland's northeastern coast, where they examined glacial formations and photographed Arctic plant and animal life. She earned recognition for her explorations of the little-known De Geer Glacier when an adjoining region was later named Louise Boyd Land. In 1933 Boyd led an expedition sponsored by the American Geographical Society. Her scientific team again studied the fjords and glaciers on Greenland's northeastern coast and, using a sonic device, measured the offshore ocean depths. In 1937, and again in 1938, Boyd continued her ocean-depth research in the Arctic seas northeast of Norway. These two expeditions helped determine that an undersea mountain ridge spans the ocean floor between Bear Island and Jan Mayen Island.

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 halted Boyd's explorations until 1941, when she undertook an Arctic expedition sponsored by the United States government. She studied the effects of polar magnetic phenomena on radio communications and later served as an adviser on military strategy in the Arctic. In 1949 the U.S. Army awarded her a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition for this work. Boyd returned to the Arctic again in 1955 when, at the age of 68, she hired an airplane and became the first woman to fly over the North Pole. She spent her remaining years in San Francisco. Boyd wrote about her explorations in newspaper articles and in her books The Fjord Region of East Greenland (1935) and The Coast of Northeast Greenland (1948).

Contributed by: Alan Wexler

"Boyd, Louise Arner" Microsoft(R) Encarta. Copyright(c) 1995 Microsoft Corporation.


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