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).
Searching for Amundsen
In 1928, Boyd financed and led an expedition to find the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen - he had disappeared that year while on a flying rescue mission to find the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile. Boyd traveled roughly 10,000 miles (16,100 km) across the Arctic Ocean, exploring from Franz Josef Land to the Greenland Sea. Although Boyd did not find any trace of Amundsen, she was awarded the Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav by the Norwegian government.
The Greenland Expeditions
In 1931, Boyd began a series of annual scientific expeditions to the Arctic. In various trips, she and her expedition explored Greenland’s northeastern coast and glaciers (including the remote De Geer Glacier - a nearby area was later named Louise Boyd Land). In 1933, the American Geographical Society sent Boyd and her team of scientists back to northeastern Greenland to study glaciers, fjords and the nearby seas (including depth measurements).
Northeast of Norway
Her expeditions to the Arctic Ocean northeast of Norway in 1937 and 1938 discovered an underwater mountain ridge between Jan Mayen Island and Bear Island. During early World War 2 (from 1939 until 1941), she did not go to the Arctic.
US Government Mission
In 1941, Boyd was sent to the Arctic by the US government’s National Bureau of Standards to study the effects of polar magnetic fields on radio communications (the magnetic field of the Earth, very strong at the poles, interferes with radio signals).
The North Pole Flight
In 1955, Boyd flew over the North Pole. She was 68 years old and was the first woman to fly over the North Pole; the 16-hour flight was on a chartered DC-4 airplane. Boyd wrote many articles about her adventures and also wrote two books, The Fjord Region of East Greenland (1935) and The Coast of Northeast Greenland (1948). Boyd died in San Francisco, CA, in 1972 at the age of 85.