Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) was a Norwegian polar explorer who was the first person to fly over the North Pole in a dirigible (May 11-13, 1926) and was the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and his small expedition reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911, traveling by dog sled. Amundsen was also the first person to sail around the world through the Northeast and Northwest passages, from the Atlantic to the Pacific (in 1905). He was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. Amundsen died in a plane crash attempting to rescue his friend, the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile who was lost in an airship.
Louise Arner Boyd (1887-1972), known as the “ice woman,” was an American who repeatedly explored and photographed the Arctic Ocean; she was also the first woman to fly over the North Pole. Born in San Rafael, California, (near San Francisco), Boyd inherited the family fortune (made by her father’s investment company) when she was 33 years old (in 1920).
Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd (1888-1957) was an Arctic and Antarctic explorer, pioneering aviator, and US Naval Officer. On May 9, 1926, Byrd (the navigator) and Floyd Bennett (the pilot) made what may have been the first airplane trip over the North Pole, in a 15 1/2 hour flight; they flew from King’s Bay, Spitsbergen, Norway, to the North Pole and back again. There is a dispute as to whether or not they actually reached the pole. He also made many trips to Antarctica.
Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (March 7, 1944- ) is an English explorer and author who has led over 30 expeditions to the North and South Poles, the desert, the Nile, and many other remote places. In 1982, Fiennes led the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth. In 1992, Fiennes and others found the legendary Lost City of Ubar in the desert of Oman. In 1993, Fiennes and Dr. Mike Stroud made the first unsupported walk across the continent of Antarctica, each man dragging a 500-pound sledge.
Fiennes holds many world exploration records. The Guiness Book of Records described Fiennes as “the world’s greatest living explorer.”
Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was an English explorer and Admiral who proved the existence of a Northwest Passage (a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Canada). In 1819 to 1822, Franklin surveyed part of the northwestern Canadian coast east of the Coppermine River. On a second expedition, from 1825 to 1827, Franklin explored the North American coast from the mouth of the Mackenzie River, in northwestern Canada, westward to Point Beechey (Alaska, USA).
In 1845, Franklin sailed from England with an expedition of 128 men to Canada in search of Northwest Passage. The ship became trapped in ice, and the desperate, freezing and starving survivors resorted to cannibalism. A small contingent of the expedition (without Franklin) may have reached Simpson Strait, the final part of the Northwest Passage. Scottish explorer John Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin’s fate. Lead poisoning from poorly-canned food may have also hastened their death.
Henry Hudson (1565-1611) was an English explorer and navigator who explored parts of the Arctic Ocean and northeastern North America. The Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay are named for Hudson.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1755?-1820) was a Scottish-born fur trader and explorer who charted the Mackenzie River in Canada and also traveled to the Pacific Ocean. Mackenzie emigrated to Canada in 1779. From 1788 to 1796 , he commanded the trading post Fort Chipewyan, on Lake Athabasca in Alberta. In 1789, Mackenzie went on an expedition to chart the 1,100-mile Mackenzie River, travelling from the Great Slave Lake to the mouth of the Mackenzie in the Arctic Ocean, using Peter Pond’s incorrect prediction that a river led from that lake to the Pacific Ocean. In 1793, on his second expedition, Mackenzie went from Ft. Chipewyan across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast in is now British Columbia, going via the Peace, Parsnip, McGregor and Fraser Rivers and overland. He was the first European to cross the North American continent north of Mexico (and he did this twice). Mackenzie later retired to his native Scotland. Mackenzie wrote “Voyage from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence, Through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in the Years 1789 and 1793,” which was published in 1801.
Robert Edwin Peary (May 6, 1856 - Feb. 20, 1920) was an American explorer and Naval officer who led the first expedition to the North Pole. In 1909, Peary, Matthew A. Henson, and four Eskimos were the first people to reach the North Pole.
John Rae (1813-1893) was a Scottish explorer, surveyor, and surgeon who explored the Canadian Arctic. Rae made three voyages, in 1848-1849, 1851, and 1853-1854, to find the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, who had disappeared together with his Arctic expedition. Rae surveyed and mapped over 1,400 miles (2255 km) of uncharted Canadian coastline. He also showed that King William Land was an island. On his third journey, Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin’s fate. During his Arctic expeditions, the hearty Rae walked over 23,000 miles (37000 km).
Sir James Clark Ross (1800 - 1862) was a British explorer and naval officer who went on missions to both the Arctic and the continent of Antarctica, doing magnetic surveys.
The Arctic: Ross went on Arctic expeditions with Sir William E. Parry from 1819 to 1827. Ross and his uncle, Sir John Ross, located the north magnetic pole on Boothia Peninsula (in northern Canada, north of King William Island) on May 31, - June 1, 1831.
Antarctica: James Ross led an Antarctic expedition (1839-43), commanding the “Erebus” while his friend Francis Crozier commanded the “Terror.” Ross charted much of the coastline and in 1841 discovered the Ross Sea, and the Victoria Barrier, which was later renamed the Ross Ice Shelf.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (November 3, 1879 - August 26, 1962) was a Canadian explorer (born of Icelandic parents) who explored the Canadian Arctic and lived among the Inuit (Eskimos) for many years.