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9 trailblazing female explorers

By: Matt Hickman on Oct. 24, 2016, 12:17 p.m.
Louise Boyd onboard a ship

Photo: Anders Beer Wilse/Public domain

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Louise Boyd (1887-1972)

When Louise Boyd inherited the family fortune at age 33, the Marin County, California, native didn’t go buck wild buying fancy clothes or embarking on lavish European tours. Instead, the intrepid heiress set her sights way north and used the money to help fund several important expeditions in the Arctic and Greenland.

The first woman (at age 68) to fly over the North Pole, Boyd — or the “Ice Woman,” as she was referred to in the press — enjoyed a certain degree of notoriety after her early trips to the Arctic, which involved hunting polar bears with European aristocrats. A keen photographer and researcher, Boyd’s later expeditions were decidedly more productive and scientific, including a survey of northeastern Greenland’s fjords and glaciers, and an Arctic trip to study the effect of polar magnet fields on radio communications.

Perhaps most famously, in 1928 Boyd was involved in the 10-week-long search and rescue mission for Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who disappeared while searching for missing Italian explorer Umberto Nobile. Although Amundsen was never found, Boyd was presented with a Chevalier Cross of the Order of St. Olav by King Haakon of Norway for her valiant and unremitting participation in the search.