Did you know that the first woman in Antarctica was Norwegian?

Caroline Mikkelsen was the first woman to set foot on the Antarctic continent.
Caroline Mikkelsen raises the Norwegian flag at the cairn on Ingrid Christensen LandCaroline Mikkelsen raises the Norwegian flag at the cairn on Ingrid Christensen Land. Her husband Klarius Mikkelsen is giving a speech. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Caroline Mikkelsen sailed with the whale oil tanker M/S Thorshavn to Antarctica in 1935. The ship’s captain was Klarius Mikkelsen, Caroline’s husband. On 20 February, seven crew members, plus Caroline and her husband, set off towards land in a lifeboat. They found a narrow inlet where it was possible to go ashore, near a mountain chain they named Vestfoldfjellene.

The mountains were named after the part of Norway where Lars Christensen’s whaling company had its headquarters. The crew and Caroline raised the Norwegian flag and built a cairn at the site, which was located at 68° 23’ S and 79° 36’ E. The place was inhabited by several colonies of penguins and the penguin chicks were in the middle their moulting period when the Norwegian visitors arrived. The entire area was covered in several feet of guano (bird droppings). The party found time enough to celebrate with coffee and sandwiches before they returned to Thorshavn and continued their journey along the uncharted coast and the ice barrier.

The area was named Ingrid Christensen Land in honor of the wife of the whaling company’s owner Lars Christensen. Ingrid Christensen went to Antarctica two years later. Caroline Mikkelsen had a mountain named after her. The place where they had landed and raised the Norwegian flag had been annexed by Great Britain for Australia a couple years earlier (1933), and is in the middle of the Australian sector. This part of the coast had not yet been charted in 1935. In honor of the Norwegian discoverers, the Norwegian place names were retained. New Australian maps show Mt. Caroline Mikkelsen, Ingrid Christensen Coast, and Vestfold Hills.