Lincoln Ellsworth

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Lincoln Ellsworth

Lincoln Ellsworth (born May 12, 1880 in Chicago , Illinois , USA , † May 26, 1951 in New York City ) was an American polar explorer and aviator.


Early years

He was the son of millionaire James W. Ellsworth , who owned one of the largest coal mines in the world in Pennsylvania . After the early death of his mother Eva Frances Ellsworth (1852-1888), Lincoln Ellsworth was raised by his grandmother in Hudson, Ohio , where he attended the Western Reserve Academy. He studied at Yale University and worked from 1904 to 1907 as a surveyor . After taking further courses in surveying and astronomy at McGill University in Montreal , he settled in New York . In 1913 he became an assistant at the New York Biological Institute. During the First World War , he joined the French army in 1916 to train as a pilot. In 1924 Ellsworth took part in a geological expedition to the Peruvian Andes .

Things to do in the Arctic

Ellsworth in front of his Dornier Wal
The airship Norge .

1925 Ellsworth tried jointly with Roald Amundsen , whom he had met during the war in Paris, in two Dornier Wal - flying boats , called N 24 and N 25 , the North Pole to reach. The company was largely financed by Ellsworth's father. As pilots Amundsen had chosen the Norwegian military pilots Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen and Leif Dietrichson . He and Ellsworth were responsible for the navigation . In addition, every flying boat had a mechanic on board, N 24 the Norwegian Oskar Omdal and N 25 the German Karl Feucht . At position 87 ° 43 'north latitude and 10 ° 20' 1 "west longitude, Amundsen landed the aircraft on the ice in order to determine their exact position and how to proceed. It turned out to be impossible to get both planes afloat again. Within 24 days, the six men built a runway and returned to Spitsbergen with the N 25 . No one before them had come this close to the pole on an airplane. Ellsworth was later awarded the Rescue Medal by the Norwegian King Haakon VII for pulling Dietrichson and Omdal out of the water after they collapsed on young ice.

When Ellsworth returned from the Arctic , his father had died and made his daughter sole heir because he believed Lincoln to be dead. The legacy was shared anyway and Ellsworth found himself in possession of a considerable fortune, which he intended to use for further polar expeditions. In 1926 he financed Amundsen's purchase of the Italian airship N1 , which he renamed Norge . Together with the builder and captain of the airship, Umberto Nobile , they flew over the North Pole from Ny-Ålesund on Spitsbergen and landed in Teller , Alaska . This flight is considered to be the first unequivocal achievement of the North Pole.

In 1931, Ellsworth supported Hubert Wilkins ' efforts to reach the North Pole on the Nautilus submarine . After 14 days of diving attempts at the pack ice border near Spitsbergen, the plan was abandoned due to technical problems. Ellsworth himself took part in July 1931 as a navigation expert in the Arctic voyage organized by the Aeroarctic for the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship .

First crossing of the Antarctic continent

Participant in the 1933/34 expedition. In the front row from left to right: Balchen, Ellsworth, Wilkins
The Polar Star on display at the National Air and Space Museum , Washington, DC

Ellsworth now turned his interest to Antarctica . He wanted to be the first to cross the continent by plane. Together with Wilkins, who was to organize his upcoming expeditions, he developed the plan to fly over West Antarctica from the Ross Ice Shelf to the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf and return to the starting point in an arc. In addition to the fame of having carried out the first trans-Antarctic flight, Ellsworth was looking for answers to some open geographic questions. It was still unclear whether there was a connection between the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea , which would separate West Antarctica from East Antarctica . It was also open whether the mountain range from Victorialand via the Queen Maud Mountains to the Antarctic Peninsula would continue.

Ellsworth acquired the motor ship Fanefjord in Norway in 1933 and renamed it Wyatt Earp . He ordered his Polar Star aircraft , the prototype of the Gamma class, with a range of over 11,000 kilometers from Northrop Corporation . In addition to Wilkins, Bernt Balchen , the Norwegian pilot Richard E. Byrds on his flight to the South Pole , was the most important member of the expedition team. In the winter of 1933, he tested the aircraft in the United States and found it suitable on March 6th. On December 5, 1933, the Wyatt Earp set sail in Dunedin , New Zealand and reached the Bay of Whales in the Ross Sea after 33 days . On January 11, Ellsworth and Balchen undertook a first successful test flight along the route that Amundsen had followed in 1911 on the way to the South Pole. The night before the start to cross the continent, however, there was a huge break in the ice edge, which damaged the aircraft so badly that the plan for this season had to be abandoned.

Ellsworth returned to Antarctica in 1934 but had modified his plans. In order to avoid a circular route, he now wanted to fly the route from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Bay of Whales and be picked up from his ship there. The Wyatt Earp reached Deception Island on October 14 , where Wilkins had flown in 1928. However, damage to the aircraft and bad weather meant that the take-off was repeatedly postponed. After a short test flight from Snow Hill Island , Balchen refused to take the risky flight at all.

In the fall of 1935, the Wyatt Earp returned with Ellsworth, Wilkins and the new pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon (1897-1975). The ship called at Dundee Island , where the Polar Star started after two unsuccessful attempts on November 23, 1935 for the first crossing of the Antarctic mainland. Ellsworth discovered two as yet unknown mountain ranges, which he named Eternity Range and Sentinel Range . Navigation was difficult, the radio soon failed and after several stopovers they were close to their destination when the fuel ran out on December 5th. On December 15, Ellsworth and Hollick-Kenyon reached Byrd's abandoned camp in Little America on the Bay of Whales. Since there had been no radio contact since November 24, rescue programs had started. The Wyatt Earp took over a plane hastily brought in from the United States in Chile. The British Discovery II left Melbourne on December 24th with two aircraft on board . On January 16, 1936, she reached the Bay of Whales. From the plane, Hollick-Kenyon was spotted on the ice. Three days later, Wilkins was there with the Wyatt Earp . On January 29, the Polar Star was refueled and flown to the ship. Ellsworth donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in April . The Royal Geographic Society awarded him their gold medal ( Patron's Medal ) in 1937 .

1938-1939 Ellsworth undertook a fourth expedition to Antarctica. With his pilot James Harold Lymburner (1904–1990) he flew on the 79th east longitude in the hinterland up to 72 ° south latitude. All the land he discovered in the interior of the continent he formally took possession of for the United States, even though Australia had previously claimed the entire sector. Ellsworth named this area the American Highland .

In memory of his father, he called part of West Antarctica that he first flown over in 1935, James W. Ellsworth Land . Today the area is only called Ellsworthland for short . In addition, the Ellsworth Mountains , Mount Ellsworth , Lake Ellsworth , Cape Ellsworth and the Ellsworth subglacial highlands bear his name in the Antarctic . In the Svalbard Archipelago, Ellsworthneset is named after him on the northeastern part of the country .

In 1943, Ellsworth had a serious accident while hiking in Mexico and suffered a concussion from which he did not fully recover.

Ellsworth lived in part at Lenzburg Castle in Switzerland from 1925 until his death . On May 23, 1933 he married the American aviation pioneer Mary Louise Ulmer († 1993).



  • Hubert Wilkins: Lincoln Ellsworth, 1880–1951. An appreciation . In: Arctic 4 (2), 1951, pp. 142–143 (English)
  • Martin Müller: Lincoln Ellsworth in memory (PDF; 720 kB). In: Polarforschung 22, 1952, pp. 194-196
  • William James Mills: Exploring Polar Frontiers - A Historical Encyclopedia . tape 1 . ABC-CLIO, 2003, ISBN 1-57607-422-6 , pp. 212–216 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • John Stewart: Antarctica - An Encyclopedia . Vol. 1, McFarland & Co., Jefferson and London 2011, ISBN 978-0-7864-3590-6 , pp. 492-494 (English)
  • Raimund E. Goerler: Ellsworth, Lincoln . In: Beau Riffenburgh (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Antarctic , Routledge, New York and London 2007, pp. 375–377, ISBN 0-415-97024-5 (English)
  • Peter J. Capelotti: Ellsworth, Lincoln . In: Mark Nuttall (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Arctic , Vol. 1, Routledge, New York and London 2005, ISBN 1-57958-436-5 , pp. 557 f (English)

Web links

Commons : Lincoln Ellsworth  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. List of Gold Medal Winners from the Royal Geographic Society , accessed June 18, 2018.