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The American Experience

Lincoln Ellsworth: Pioneering Arctic AviationLincoln Ellsworth

Chicago-born Lincoln Ellsworth had experienced his share of adventure -- exploring the Peruvian Andes, mapping the rugged Canadian wilderness, and surveying the towering Rockies -- when he became captivated by what he called the "gleam of the Northern Lights over the silent snow fields."

An expert aviator, Ellsworth teamed up with Norwegian Roald Amundsen in an unsuccessful 1925 attempt to fly over the North Pole. A year later, he achieved greater results when he and Italian aviator Umberto Nobile soared over the North Pole in a dirigible called the "Norge" Ellsworth did not limit his means of adventure travel to flying machines, however. In 1931, he was part of a team seeking to reach to North Pole by submarine. They did not succeed.

As he reached his mid-fifties, Ellsworth was just hitting his stride. In 1935, at age 55, Ellsworth became the first man to have flown over both poles when he flew across the entire continent of Antarctica. During his final visit to the Antarctic, Ellsworth discovered two uncharted mountain ranges and established a base -- called American Highland -- on the little-known-of Indian Ocean coast.

During his career as an explorer and aviator, Ellsworth claimed for the U.S. some 380,000 square miles of Antarctica. He died in 1951, at age 71.


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