1988 25c Antarctic Explorers

# 2386-89 - 1988 25c Antarctic Explorers

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U.S. #2386-89
1988 25¢ Antarctic Explorers

  • Stamps honor four explorers of the South Pole
  • Picture the men, their vessels, and maps of their expeditions
  • Stamps coincided with Richard Byrd’s 100th birthday and 100th anniversary of the National Geographic Society

Stamp Category:  Commemorative
Set: 
Antarctic Explorers
Value: 
25¢, first-class rate
First Day of Issue: 
September 14, 1988
First Day City: 
Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 
40,535,625 blocks
Printed by: 
American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: 
Photogravure
Format: 
Panes of 50 in sheets of 200
Perforations:  11

 

Why the stamps were issued:  The 1988 Antarctic Explorers block was issued as a companion to the 1986 Arctic Explorers (US #2220-23).  The block was issued one month prior to Admiral Richard Byrd's 100th birthday.  

 

About the stamp designs:  Artist Dennis Lyall, who designed the Arctic Explorers block, also designed these stamps in a similar style.  Each stamp has a head-and-shoulders portrait with an illustration and map of their discovery route.  The stamps in the block were arranged in chronological order with the earliest explorer in the top left and the most recent explorer in the bottom right.

 

Lyall based his portrait of Nathaniel Palmer on a painting by Samuel Waldo from the Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington, Connecticut, Palmer’s hometown.  The image of his ship, Hero, was based on a line drawing by John Leavitt from the same museum. 

 

The image of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes was based on an 1870 Samuel Bell Waugh painting from the National Portrait Gallery.  The image of his ship, the Vincennes, was based on sources from the National Geographic Society.

 

The portrait of Richard E. Byrd was created based on several photographs by Seymore Stone and someone only credited as Woolf provided by the National Portrait Gallery.  The plane pictured on his stamp was taken from a National Geographic Society photo.

 

The image of Lincoln Ellsworth was a composite based on multiple photos provided by the Library of Congress.  The plane pictured on his stamp was taken from a National Geographic Society photo.

 

First Day City:  The First Day ceremony for the Antarctic Explorers block was held at the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium of the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC.  In addition to celebrating the issue of the stamps, the ceremony also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Geographic Society.

 

Unusual fact about these stamps:  Errors of these stamps have been found imperforate and missing the black ink.

 

History the stamps represent: 

 

Nathaniel Palmer

On November 17, 1820, Nathaniel Palmer and his crew became the first Americans to see Antarctica.  Born in 1799 in Stonington, Connecticut, Palmer had a life-long love of the sea. As a child, he played in his father’s shipyard and began working on his first ship at just 14 years old.

 

Palmer’s hometown of Stonington was a major sealing port. At that time, sealskins were a popular trade item with China. Palmer quickly established himself as a skilled and daring seal hunter during his frequent travels to South America. By the time Palmer turned 21, he had received his first command – captaining the 47-foot-long sloop Hero.

 

By 1820, the traditional sealing spots off the coasts of South America and the Falkland Islands were barren, leading explorers to search further south. That November, Palmer joined an expedition to the South Shetland Islands. When they found no seals there, Palmer forged ahead, taking advantage of his small boat that could easily navigate the islands.

 

On November 17, Palmer sailed south from Deception Island and saw “land not yet laid down on my chart.” Palmer and his men had found Antarctica. Two other explorers had seen the land earlier that year – Edward Bransfield and William Smith of Ireland and England respectively. But Palmer was the first American. The spot he sighted was later named Palmer Land in his honor. The following year, Palmer returned to the area and joined in the discovery of the nearby South Orkney Islands archipelago.

 

Palmer continued his successful sealing career until he embarked on a new career, sailing express freight around the world. During his decades at sea, Palmer saw first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of the day’s ships. He proposed and designed his own improvements, earning him a credit as co-developer of the clipper ship.

 

In his later years, Palmer settled in Stonington, where he owned clipper ships that others sailed for him. His legacy in the Antarctic continues today with the Palmer Archipelago, Palmer Station, the clipper ship N.B. Palmer, and the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. Additionally, Hero Bay in the South Shetland Islands is named after his ship.

 

Charles Wilkes

On January 19, 1840, US Naval captain Charles Wilkes became the first American to explore the coast of Antarctica.

 

Born on April 3, 1798, in New York City, New York, Charles Wilkes joined the US Navy in 1818. In the 1820s he was part of the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. And in the 1830s, his survey of Narragansett Bay earned him a promotion to head of the Navy’s Department of Charts and Instruments, where he developed the Naval Observatory and Hydrographic Office.

 

As early as 1828, President John Quincy Adams had wanted to send a naval surveying expedition to the Antarctic Ocean. At the time, ships traveling to the Antarctic in search of whales, seals, and fish were wrecked because the area was uncharted. Despite these concerns, Congress wouldn’t award the funding. It wasn’t until 1836, under President Andrew Jackson, that funding was finally granted, though the project would stall again until President Martin Van Buren pushed for it while in office. Due to the long delay, the original commanding officer resigned, and Wilkes was selected due to his experience with hydrography, geodesy, and magnetism. Naturalists, botanists, a mineralogist, taxidermists, artists, and a philologist joined Wilkes.

 

The fleet of six ships departed Virginia on August 18, 1838. They traveled first to Madiera and Cape Verde before heading down the coast of South America. Once in the Pacific, the expedition continued along the coast of South America to Peru before crossing the Ocean, passing through Polynesian and reaching Australia. Heading south after leaving Sydney, Wilkes saw a wall of ice and directed his ships toward it.

 

On January 19, the expedition sighted land, which Wilkes called Cape Hudson. Up until that time, there was little information about that part of the world. Though whalers traveled the waters near Antarctica, no one had mapped out the land. While explorers from other countries had spotted small areas of land there before, none had explored it as widely as Wilkes would.

 

Once he saw land, Wilkes followed along the shore as closely as possible, being ever careful as the water was filled with icebergs. After sailing for several more days and spotting land a few more times, Wilkes concluded that what he was seeing was a continent and named it the Antarctic Continent. Wilkes continued to follow along the coast for nearly a month. During that time, the cold and conditions were so bad that his crew and doctors warned that they should turn back, but Wilkes was adamant about completing his mission. Finally on February 21, after a month of skirting the coast for over 1,500 miles, he believed he had achieved his goal of exploring the Antarctic and agreed to head north.

 

The expedition continued for another two years after that. By the time they returned to the US in June 1842, they had circumnavigated the globe, traveling nearly 87,000 miles. Their journey included the Madeira Islands, Rio de Janeiro, Tierra del Fuego, Chile, Peru, Samoa, New South Wales, the Balleny Islands, Fiji, the Philippines, Singapore, Polynesia, and many other areas. The expedition is credited with playing a significant role in the development of 19th-century science, and in particular the growth of America’s scientific establishment. The crew collected thousands of plant and animal specimens that were later made part of the Smithsonian Institution collection. Additionally, Wilkes’s 19-volume report gave detailed information on the customs, politics, and economies of the far-away places they had explored.

 

Richard E. Byrd

Richard Evelyn Byrd was born on October 25, 1888, in Winchester, Virginia.  Byrd was descended from one of the first families of Virginia – among his ancestors were John Rolfe and Pocahontas. Byrd attended the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia before enrolling in the US Naval Academy.

 

After graduating in 1912, Byrd was assigned to the USS Wyoming and later the USS Dolphin. Aboard this ship, he met the assistant secretary of the Navy at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and participated in the US intervention in Veracruz, Mexico. After suffering a foot injury, Byrd medically retired from the Navy and then joined the Rhode Island Naval Militia. He also recognized the expanding future of aviation and earned his pilot wings in 1917.

 

During World War I, Byrd worked in the Office of Naval Operations and trained pilots. He also commanded naval air forces in Nova Scotia. After the war, Byrd created the flight path for the Navy’s 1919 transatlantic crossing. Then in 1925, he commanded the aviation unit of an arctic expedition, which inspired him to launch an expedition of his own.

 

In May 1926, Byrd and Floyd Bennett reported that they made the first recorded flight over the North Pole. Byrd returned home a national hero, was promoted to the rank of commander and received the Medal of Honor. There was later some controversy over whether they actually did fly over the North Pole, but Byrd used the fame from this trip to plan a flight over the South Pole.

 

Two years later, Byrd launched that expedition on November 28, 1929, and made the first flight to the South Pole and back. He was promoted to rear admiral for this achievement, making him the youngest admiral in the US Navy at age 41.

 

Byrd returned to the Antarctic in 1934 for a solo mission. He spent five months alone in a meteorological station, where he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from an ill-ventilated stove. He was later rescued and recounted the tale in his autobiography Alone. The US Post Office issued #733 to commemorate this expedition, though the stamp wasn’t distributed for public sale. Rather, it was issued for use on letters mailed through the Little America Post Office, established at the base camp of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition in the territory of the South Pole.

 

Byrd launched a third Antarctic expedition in 1939, but was called back to the US for active duty. During World War II, he served as an advisor and also led surveys and other missions in the Pacific in search of airfields. After the war, Byrd took part in two more Antarctic expeditions. He died in Boston on March 11, 1957.

 

Lincoln Ellsworth

Polar explorer Lincoln Ellsworth was born on May 12, 1880, in Chicago, Illinois.  He was the first person to fly over both polar regions, which earned him two Congressional Gold Medals.  He’s one of just four people to have received two of the prestigious medals.

 

The son of a wealthy coal-mine owner, Ellsworth enjoyed the outdoors from a young age, hiking through the wilderness any chance he got.  Ellsworth attended the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale and later Columbia and McGill Universities.  In 1903, he was hired to stake out a railway in the Canadian wilderness.  The experience was life-changing.  As Ellsworth recalled, “I changed from a pale college youth to a tough and weather-beaten outdoor man.”

 

Over the next few years, Ellsworth worked as a chief engineer at a gold mine in Alaska and staked out another railway there.  During this time, he helped establish the town of Prince Rupert and studied railway engineering and practical astronomy.  Ellsworth set his sights on scientific expeditions.  With all the news of polar expeditions – Frederick Cook and Robert E. Peary claiming to reach the North Pole in 1908 and 1909, and Roald Amundsen traveling to the South Pole in 1912 – Ellsworth grew fascinated with the idea.  He studied geographical surveying at the Royal Geographical Society in London and worked as an assistant for the US Biological Survey, going on expeditions to California, British Columbia, and Mexico.

 

In 1916, Ellsworth volunteered to fly for France during World War I, though he was assigned to an office.  However, the experience did afford him the opportunity to meet Roald Amundsen, though he didn’t have a place for him in his upcoming expedition.  When they met again in 1924, Amundsen invited him to join his expedition to the North Pole.  He served as navigator and they departed by flying boat on May 21, 1925, reaching their destination after eight-and-a-half hours.  They spent over three weeks building an air strip to take off for their return flight.   They launched a second expedition the following year during which they flew over the North Pole on Ellsworth’s birthday.

 

In 1927, the Boy Scouts made Ellsworth an Honorary Scout, given to “American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys.”  Then in 1928, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his two expeditions to the north.

 

By the late 1920s, Ellsworth felt he was done with Arctic exploration and spent time in the Grand Canyon and Death Valley searching for fossilized algae.  He participated in a failed expedition of the submarine Nautilus to the North Pole.  In 1931, he joined in a zeppelin expedition to Taymyr, Russia as an arctic expert.  The experience renewed his interest in polar exploration, and he turned his attention to the Antarctic.

 

In 1933, Ellsworth launched his first Antarctic expedition by air, to explore whether Amundsen’s Queen Maud Mountain Range was part of the mountains in the Antarctic Peninsula.  Ellsworth bought a Norwegian ship and named it after his childhood hero, Wyatt Earp.  Along the way, the ship was badly damaged by sea ice and they had to wait for repairs.  Their renewed efforts in 1934 were also unsuccessful because of technical issues and poor weather.

 

Ellsworth embarked on another expedition in November 1935 with pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon.  Between November 22 and December 5, they flew nearly 2,300 miles, the longest transantarctic flight until 1956.  They had traveled further into Antarctica than any expedition before them.  However, rough weather forced them from the air several times and their plane eventually ran out of gas.  Due to a faulty radio, they were unable to inform anyone of their situation and walked 16 miles to the Little America station set up by Richard Byrd in 1929.  They were declared missing and rescue ships were sent to retrieve them.  They were rescued on January 15.

 

Ellsworth received the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal in 1936.  He also became one of only four people to receive a second Congressional Gold Medal.  Ellsworth returned to Antarctica again in 1938 and planned more trips, but these were called off because of World War II.  He suffered a bad fall on a trek in Mexico in 1943 and died on May 26, 1951.

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U.S. #2386-89
1988 25¢ Antarctic Explorers

  • Stamps honor four explorers of the South Pole
  • Picture the men, their vessels, and maps of their expeditions
  • Stamps coincided with Richard Byrd’s 100th birthday and 100th anniversary of the National Geographic Society

Stamp Category:  Commemorative
Set: 
Antarctic Explorers
Value: 
25¢, first-class rate
First Day of Issue: 
September 14, 1988
First Day City: 
Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 
40,535,625 blocks
Printed by: 
American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: 
Photogravure
Format: 
Panes of 50 in sheets of 200
Perforations:  11

 

Why the stamps were issued:  The 1988 Antarctic Explorers block was issued as a companion to the 1986 Arctic Explorers (US #2220-23).  The block was issued one month prior to Admiral Richard Byrd's 100th birthday.  

 

About the stamp designs:  Artist Dennis Lyall, who designed the Arctic Explorers block, also designed these stamps in a similar style.  Each stamp has a head-and-shoulders portrait with an illustration and map of their discovery route.  The stamps in the block were arranged in chronological order with the earliest explorer in the top left and the most recent explorer in the bottom right.

 

Lyall based his portrait of Nathaniel Palmer on a painting by Samuel Waldo from the Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington, Connecticut, Palmer’s hometown.  The image of his ship, Hero, was based on a line drawing by John Leavitt from the same museum. 

 

The image of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes was based on an 1870 Samuel Bell Waugh painting from the National Portrait Gallery.  The image of his ship, the Vincennes, was based on sources from the National Geographic Society.

 

The portrait of Richard E. Byrd was created based on several photographs by Seymore Stone and someone only credited as Woolf provided by the National Portrait Gallery.  The plane pictured on his stamp was taken from a National Geographic Society photo.

 

The image of Lincoln Ellsworth was a composite based on multiple photos provided by the Library of Congress.  The plane pictured on his stamp was taken from a National Geographic Society photo.

 

First Day City:  The First Day ceremony for the Antarctic Explorers block was held at the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium of the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC.  In addition to celebrating the issue of the stamps, the ceremony also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Geographic Society.

 

Unusual fact about these stamps:  Errors of these stamps have been found imperforate and missing the black ink.

 

History the stamps represent: 

 

Nathaniel Palmer

On November 17, 1820, Nathaniel Palmer and his crew became the first Americans to see Antarctica.  Born in 1799 in Stonington, Connecticut, Palmer had a life-long love of the sea. As a child, he played in his father’s shipyard and began working on his first ship at just 14 years old.

 

Palmer’s hometown of Stonington was a major sealing port. At that time, sealskins were a popular trade item with China. Palmer quickly established himself as a skilled and daring seal hunter during his frequent travels to South America. By the time Palmer turned 21, he had received his first command – captaining the 47-foot-long sloop Hero.

 

By 1820, the traditional sealing spots off the coasts of South America and the Falkland Islands were barren, leading explorers to search further south. That November, Palmer joined an expedition to the South Shetland Islands. When they found no seals there, Palmer forged ahead, taking advantage of his small boat that could easily navigate the islands.

 

On November 17, Palmer sailed south from Deception Island and saw “land not yet laid down on my chart.” Palmer and his men had found Antarctica. Two other explorers had seen the land earlier that year – Edward Bransfield and William Smith of Ireland and England respectively. But Palmer was the first American. The spot he sighted was later named Palmer Land in his honor. The following year, Palmer returned to the area and joined in the discovery of the nearby South Orkney Islands archipelago.

 

Palmer continued his successful sealing career until he embarked on a new career, sailing express freight around the world. During his decades at sea, Palmer saw first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of the day’s ships. He proposed and designed his own improvements, earning him a credit as co-developer of the clipper ship.

 

In his later years, Palmer settled in Stonington, where he owned clipper ships that others sailed for him. His legacy in the Antarctic continues today with the Palmer Archipelago, Palmer Station, the clipper ship N.B. Palmer, and the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. Additionally, Hero Bay in the South Shetland Islands is named after his ship.

 

Charles Wilkes

On January 19, 1840, US Naval captain Charles Wilkes became the first American to explore the coast of Antarctica.

 

Born on April 3, 1798, in New York City, New York, Charles Wilkes joined the US Navy in 1818. In the 1820s he was part of the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. And in the 1830s, his survey of Narragansett Bay earned him a promotion to head of the Navy’s Department of Charts and Instruments, where he developed the Naval Observatory and Hydrographic Office.

 

As early as 1828, President John Quincy Adams had wanted to send a naval surveying expedition to the Antarctic Ocean. At the time, ships traveling to the Antarctic in search of whales, seals, and fish were wrecked because the area was uncharted. Despite these concerns, Congress wouldn’t award the funding. It wasn’t until 1836, under President Andrew Jackson, that funding was finally granted, though the project would stall again until President Martin Van Buren pushed for it while in office. Due to the long delay, the original commanding officer resigned, and Wilkes was selected due to his experience with hydrography, geodesy, and magnetism. Naturalists, botanists, a mineralogist, taxidermists, artists, and a philologist joined Wilkes.

 

The fleet of six ships departed Virginia on August 18, 1838. They traveled first to Madiera and Cape Verde before heading down the coast of South America. Once in the Pacific, the expedition continued along the coast of South America to Peru before crossing the Ocean, passing through Polynesian and reaching Australia. Heading south after leaving Sydney, Wilkes saw a wall of ice and directed his ships toward it.

 

On January 19, the expedition sighted land, which Wilkes called Cape Hudson. Up until that time, there was little information about that part of the world. Though whalers traveled the waters near Antarctica, no one had mapped out the land. While explorers from other countries had spotted small areas of land there before, none had explored it as widely as Wilkes would.

 

Once he saw land, Wilkes followed along the shore as closely as possible, being ever careful as the water was filled with icebergs. After sailing for several more days and spotting land a few more times, Wilkes concluded that what he was seeing was a continent and named it the Antarctic Continent. Wilkes continued to follow along the coast for nearly a month. During that time, the cold and conditions were so bad that his crew and doctors warned that they should turn back, but Wilkes was adamant about completing his mission. Finally on February 21, after a month of skirting the coast for over 1,500 miles, he believed he had achieved his goal of exploring the Antarctic and agreed to head north.

 

The expedition continued for another two years after that. By the time they returned to the US in June 1842, they had circumnavigated the globe, traveling nearly 87,000 miles. Their journey included the Madeira Islands, Rio de Janeiro, Tierra del Fuego, Chile, Peru, Samoa, New South Wales, the Balleny Islands, Fiji, the Philippines, Singapore, Polynesia, and many other areas. The expedition is credited with playing a significant role in the development of 19th-century science, and in particular the growth of America’s scientific establishment. The crew collected thousands of plant and animal specimens that were later made part of the Smithsonian Institution collection. Additionally, Wilkes’s 19-volume report gave detailed information on the customs, politics, and economies of the far-away places they had explored.

 

Richard E. Byrd

Richard Evelyn Byrd was born on October 25, 1888, in Winchester, Virginia.  Byrd was descended from one of the first families of Virginia – among his ancestors were John Rolfe and Pocahontas. Byrd attended the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia before enrolling in the US Naval Academy.

 

After graduating in 1912, Byrd was assigned to the USS Wyoming and later the USS Dolphin. Aboard this ship, he met the assistant secretary of the Navy at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and participated in the US intervention in Veracruz, Mexico. After suffering a foot injury, Byrd medically retired from the Navy and then joined the Rhode Island Naval Militia. He also recognized the expanding future of aviation and earned his pilot wings in 1917.

 

During World War I, Byrd worked in the Office of Naval Operations and trained pilots. He also commanded naval air forces in Nova Scotia. After the war, Byrd created the flight path for the Navy’s 1919 transatlantic crossing. Then in 1925, he commanded the aviation unit of an arctic expedition, which inspired him to launch an expedition of his own.

 

In May 1926, Byrd and Floyd Bennett reported that they made the first recorded flight over the North Pole. Byrd returned home a national hero, was promoted to the rank of commander and received the Medal of Honor. There was later some controversy over whether they actually did fly over the North Pole, but Byrd used the fame from this trip to plan a flight over the South Pole.

 

Two years later, Byrd launched that expedition on November 28, 1929, and made the first flight to the South Pole and back. He was promoted to rear admiral for this achievement, making him the youngest admiral in the US Navy at age 41.

 

Byrd returned to the Antarctic in 1934 for a solo mission. He spent five months alone in a meteorological station, where he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from an ill-ventilated stove. He was later rescued and recounted the tale in his autobiography Alone. The US Post Office issued #733 to commemorate this expedition, though the stamp wasn’t distributed for public sale. Rather, it was issued for use on letters mailed through the Little America Post Office, established at the base camp of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition in the territory of the South Pole.

 

Byrd launched a third Antarctic expedition in 1939, but was called back to the US for active duty. During World War II, he served as an advisor and also led surveys and other missions in the Pacific in search of airfields. After the war, Byrd took part in two more Antarctic expeditions. He died in Boston on March 11, 1957.

 

Lincoln Ellsworth

Polar explorer Lincoln Ellsworth was born on May 12, 1880, in Chicago, Illinois.  He was the first person to fly over both polar regions, which earned him two Congressional Gold Medals.  He’s one of just four people to have received two of the prestigious medals.

 

The son of a wealthy coal-mine owner, Ellsworth enjoyed the outdoors from a young age, hiking through the wilderness any chance he got.  Ellsworth attended the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale and later Columbia and McGill Universities.  In 1903, he was hired to stake out a railway in the Canadian wilderness.  The experience was life-changing.  As Ellsworth recalled, “I changed from a pale college youth to a tough and weather-beaten outdoor man.”

 

Over the next few years, Ellsworth worked as a chief engineer at a gold mine in Alaska and staked out another railway there.  During this time, he helped establish the town of Prince Rupert and studied railway engineering and practical astronomy.  Ellsworth set his sights on scientific expeditions.  With all the news of polar expeditions – Frederick Cook and Robert E. Peary claiming to reach the North Pole in 1908 and 1909, and Roald Amundsen traveling to the South Pole in 1912 – Ellsworth grew fascinated with the idea.  He studied geographical surveying at the Royal Geographical Society in London and worked as an assistant for the US Biological Survey, going on expeditions to California, British Columbia, and Mexico.

 

In 1916, Ellsworth volunteered to fly for France during World War I, though he was assigned to an office.  However, the experience did afford him the opportunity to meet Roald Amundsen, though he didn’t have a place for him in his upcoming expedition.  When they met again in 1924, Amundsen invited him to join his expedition to the North Pole.  He served as navigator and they departed by flying boat on May 21, 1925, reaching their destination after eight-and-a-half hours.  They spent over three weeks building an air strip to take off for their return flight.   They launched a second expedition the following year during which they flew over the North Pole on Ellsworth’s birthday.

 

In 1927, the Boy Scouts made Ellsworth an Honorary Scout, given to “American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys.”  Then in 1928, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his two expeditions to the north.

 

By the late 1920s, Ellsworth felt he was done with Arctic exploration and spent time in the Grand Canyon and Death Valley searching for fossilized algae.  He participated in a failed expedition of the submarine Nautilus to the North Pole.  In 1931, he joined in a zeppelin expedition to Taymyr, Russia as an arctic expert.  The experience renewed his interest in polar exploration, and he turned his attention to the Antarctic.

 

In 1933, Ellsworth launched his first Antarctic expedition by air, to explore whether Amundsen’s Queen Maud Mountain Range was part of the mountains in the Antarctic Peninsula.  Ellsworth bought a Norwegian ship and named it after his childhood hero, Wyatt Earp.  Along the way, the ship was badly damaged by sea ice and they had to wait for repairs.  Their renewed efforts in 1934 were also unsuccessful because of technical issues and poor weather.

 

Ellsworth embarked on another expedition in November 1935 with pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon.  Between November 22 and December 5, they flew nearly 2,300 miles, the longest transantarctic flight until 1956.  They had traveled further into Antarctica than any expedition before them.  However, rough weather forced them from the air several times and their plane eventually ran out of gas.  Due to a faulty radio, they were unable to inform anyone of their situation and walked 16 miles to the Little America station set up by Richard Byrd in 1929.  They were declared missing and rescue ships were sent to retrieve them.  They were rescued on January 15.

 

Ellsworth received the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal in 1936.  He also became one of only four people to receive a second Congressional Gold Medal.  Ellsworth returned to Antarctica again in 1938 and planned more trips, but these were called off because of World War II.  He suffered a bad fall on a trek in Mexico in 1943 and died on May 26, 1951.