Ingrid Christensen

Ingrid Christensen (10 October 1891 – 18 June 1976) was an early polar explorer. She was known as the first woman to view Antarctica and land on the Antarctic mainland.[1]

Ingrid Christensen
Ingrid Christensen died 1976.jpeg
Shown during her 1931 expedition
Ingrid Dahl

(1891-10-10)10 October 1891
Died18 June 1976(1976-06-18) (aged 84)
Known forFirst woman in Antarctica
SpouseLars Christensen

Early lifeEdit

Christensen (née Dahl) was the daughter of Alfhild Freng Dahl and wholesaler and ship owner Thor Dahl, who was at the time one of the largest merchants in Sandefjord, Norway.[2]

The Norwegian Antarctic historian Hans Bogen described her in 1955: “Ingrid Dahl was exactly what in our time we call a kjekk og frisk jente (a Norwegian expression meaning a girl who could be at once one of the boys, then one of the girls, without losing her femininity or charm). She was the natural leader of the girls in her age group because of her initiative, humour and fearlessness, qualities she has preserved unwaveringly to the present day”.[3] Ingrid married Lars Christensen in 1910, uniting two of Sandefjord's most powerful ship owning families, and they had six children.[4][5]

Antarctic explorationEdit

Christensen made four trips to the Antarctic with her husband on the ship Thorshavn in the 1930s, becoming the first woman to see Antarctica, the first to fly over it, and—arguably—the first woman to land on the Antarctic mainland.[1][6][7]

In 1931, Christensen sailed with Mathilde Wegger. The expedition sighted and named Bjerkö Head on 5 February 1931, making Christensen and Wegger the first women to see Antarctica.[8] Douglas Mawson reported spotting two women aboard a Norwegian ship, who were probably Christensen and Wegger, during his BANZARE expedition. He wired back to the Australian media: "...much astonishment was excited by the dramatic appearance on their decks of two women attired in the modes of civilisation. Theirs is a unique experience, for they can make much merit of the fact that they are, perhaps, the first of their sex to visit Antarctica".[9]

In 1933, Christensen sailed with Lillemor (Ingebjørg) Rachlew, who kept a diary and took photographs,[10] which appeared in Lars Christensen's book[11] even though no landing was possible. Christensen sailed south for the third time in 1933–34 with Ingebjørg Dedichen.[12] They again did not manage a landing, though circumnavigated almost the entire continent. In 1934/35 Danish-born Caroline Mikkelsen, wife of Captain Klarius Mikkelsen, sailed to Antarctica and landed on the Tryne Islands on the 20 February 1935 and was, until recently, thought to be the first woman to land on Antarctica.[13] However, since Mikkelsen landed on an Antarctic island, Christensen is considered the first woman to set foot on the Antarctic mainland.[1][6][7]

In 1936–37 Christensen made her fourth and final trip south, with daughter Augusta Sofie Christensen, Lillemor Rachlew, and Solveig Widerøe, the ‘four ladies’ for whom the underwater Four Ladies Bank was named during the voyage.[14][15][16] Christensen flew over the mainland, becoming the first woman to see Antarctica from the air.[13] On 30 January 1937, Lars Christensen's diary records that Ingrid Christensen landed at Scullin Monolith, becoming the first woman to set foot on the Antarctic mainland, followed by the other three of the 'four ladies'.[1][6][17]

Awards and honoursEdit

In 1998 and 2002, polar researchers investigated Caroline Mikkelsen's landing and concluded it was on the Tryne Islands, rather than the Antarctic mainland.[6][18][19] Other research confirmed Christensen was the first to disembark on Scullin Monolith on 30 January 1937, making her the first woman to step on the Antarctic mainland.[6]

Role in Christensen Antarctic explorationsEdit

Christensen played a major role in her husband's Antarctic expeditions. Archaeologist Waldemar Brøgger, wrote in the cover story of the inaugural issue of the Norwegian magazine Verden I Bilder (The World in Pictures): "In all the excursions, Lars and Ingrid Christensen have been united in the undertaking—in thick and thin, in storm and bad weather, in good weather and joys. It is almost unique in the history of exploration that two persons have thus thriven for the same goal, kept the distant target in sight and never given up before achieving it... Ingrid Christensen’s part in the whole enterprise is not the smaller, by reason of her incredibly bold, fearless personality, and it is symbolically right that it should be she who, from an aircraft threw down the Norwegian flag."[20]

Order of St OlavEdit

For her contribution to Norway's cause in America during the war and for her public efforts, Christensen received Norway's Knighthood, First Class, Order of St Olav, in 1946.[2]


Name given to part of AntarcticaEdit

Ingrid Christensen Coast in East Antarctica was discovered and named by Klarius Mikkelsen in 1935.[2][21]

In fictionEdit

Christensen's four journeys to Antarctica were fictionalised in the 2013 novel Chasing the Light.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d "The first woman in Antarctica". Australian Antarctic Division. 2012. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  2. ^ a b c "Obituary of Ingrid Christensen" [English translation]. Vestfolds Fremtid. 1976-06-19. Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  3. ^ Stensrud, Odd. 70 år – Lars Christensen og hans samtid [70 years – Lars Christensen and his contemporaries]. Oslo: Forlagt AV Johan Grundt Tanum. p. 240. OCLC 492845180.
  4. ^ "Ingrid Christensen (Dahl)". Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  5. ^ Riffenburgh, Beau (2007). Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. Taylor & Francis. p. 234. ISBN 9780415970242.
  6. ^ a b c d e Blackadder, Jesse (2013). "Illuminations : casting light upon the earliest female travellers to Antarctica". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b "The first woman and female scientists in Antarctica". Retrieved 2016-06-23.
  8. ^ Chipman, E. (1986). Women on the ice: A history of women in the far south. Victoria: Melbourne University Press, page 72.
  9. ^ "Women in Antarctica". Sydney Morning Herald. 1931-03-14. p. 13.
  10. ^ Rachlew’s photographs were published in the French journal (1934, 13 January 1934). Voyage d’une femme dans L’Antarctique (Travels of a woman in the Antarctic). L'Illustration, 4741, 52–53.
  11. ^ Christensen, Lars (1935). Such is the Antarctic. Translated by Jayne, E. Hodder and Stoughton.
  12. ^ Chipman, Elizabeth (1986-01-01). Women on the ice: a history of women in the far south. Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press. p. 172. ISBN 0522843247.
  13. ^ a b Bogen, H (1957). "Main events in the history of Antarctic exploration". Norwegian Whaling Gazette = Norsk Hvalfangst-Tidende. Sandefjord: Norwegian Whaling Gazette: 90. ISSN 0369-5158.
  14. ^ Christensen, Lars (1938-01-01). My Last Expedition to the Antarctic, 1936–1937: With a Review of the Research Work Done on the Voyages in 1927–1937. Oslo: Johan Grundt Tanum. p. 8.
  15. ^ Legler, Gretchen (2005). On the ice : an intimate portrait of life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica / Gretchen Legler. Minneapolis, Minn: Milkweed Editions. p. 105. ISBN 9781571312822.
  16. ^ Herdman, Henry; Wiseman, John; Ovey, Cameron (1956-09-01). "Proposed names of features on the deep-sea floor". Deep-Sea Research. 3 (4): 253–261. Bibcode:1956DSR.....3..253H. doi:10.1016/0146-6313(56)90014-4.
  17. ^ Bogen, H. (1957). Main events in the history of Antarctic exploration. Sandefjord: Norwegian Whaling Gazette, page 85
  18. ^ Norman, F. I.; Gibson, J. a. E.; Burgess, J. S. (1998-10-01). "Klarius Mikkelsen's 1935 landing in the Vestfold Hills, East Antarctica: some fiction and some facts". Polar Record. 34 (191): 293–304. doi:10.1017/S0032247400025985. ISSN 1475-3057.
  19. ^ Norman, F.i.; Gibson, J.a.e.; Jones, R.t.; Burgess, J.s. (2002-10-01). "Klarius Mikkelsen's landing site: some further notes on the 1935 Norwegian visit to the Vestfold Hills, East Antarctica". Polar Record. 38 (207): 323–328. doi:10.1017/S0032247400018015. ISSN 1475-3057. S2CID 129578857.
  20. ^ As cited in Bogen, H. (1957). Main events in the history of Antarctic exploration. Sandefjord: Norwegian Whaling Gazette, page 66
  21. ^ Legler, Gretchen (2005). On the ice: an intimate portrait of life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Minneapolis, Minn: Milkweed Editions. ISBN 9781571312822.
  22. ^ Blackadder, Jesse (2013). Chasing the Light. Sydney: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780132575539.

Further readingEdit

  • Christensen, L. (1937). My last expedition to the Antarctic. Oslo: Johan Grundt Tanum.
  • Rabot, C. (1934, 13 January 1934). Voyage d'une femme dans L'Antarctique (Travels of a woman in the Antarctic). L'Illustration, 4741, 52–53.