A mysterious first

by Kate S. Zalzal
Friday, January 27, 2017

The first six women to reach the South Pole — on Nov. 12, 1969. From left: Pam Young, Jean Pearson, Terry Tickhill Terrell, Lois Jones, Eileen McSaveney and Kay Lindsay. Credit: U.S. Antarctic Program.

Women sailed around the sub-Antarctic islands well before Caroline Mikkelsen or Ingrid Christensen’s journeys, usually accompanying their sailor husbands. Maori navigators are known to have traveled these waters for centuries. Although Christensen and Mikkelsen are credited with Antarctic firsts, some people think another woman may have come before. In her book “Women on the Ice,” Elizabeth Chipman, an Australian writer who visited and worked in Antarctica in the 1960s and ‘70s, writes of a woman who was shipwrecked on Campbell Island, 700 kilometers south of New Zealand, in 1835. The woman was rescued four years later by two sealing ships that then sailed farther south toward the Antarctic mainland; perhaps those on board got a glimpse of the icy continent. On the way back to England, however, one of the ships was lost at sea and she died. As the woman’s name wasn’t recorded in the log of the surviving ship, her story, and her potential first, is lost to history.

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