12 May 1880: Lincoln Ellsworth
Today is the anniversary of the birth of Lincoln Ellsworth, an American explorer, engineer, and scientist who led the first trans-Arctic (1926) and trans-Antarctic (1935) air crossings.
Fascinated with polar air exploration, Ellsworth financed and accompanied two expeditions with the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. On the first, in 1925, they reached latitude 87°44′ N in two amphibian planes; an emergency landing without radio caused them to be given up for lost. The following year Ellsworth and Amundsen, along with the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile, made the first traverse of the Arctic basin in the dirigible Norge—a 3,393-mile journey from Spitsbergen to Alaska that won worldwide acclaim.
In late 1935, on the third of four private expeditions to Antarctica, Ellsworth and Canadian pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon flew across the continent from the Antarctic Peninsula to the abandoned Little America base on the Ross Ice Shelf. In 1939 he again flew over Antarctica and named the American Highland in the Indian Ocean quadrant.