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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,002

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This is the grave of Finn and Edith Ronne.

Born in 1899 in Horten, Norway, Finn Ronne was born into a polar exploring family. While I kind of think probably all Norwegians end up figuring out new ways to the North Pole, Ronne’s father actually was part of Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole. Maybe that ice was exotic for the herring chokers bored with the Arctic, I don’t know. Anyway, Finn Ronne went to college, became an engineer, and eventually followed his father into polar exploration. He immigrated to the United States in 1923 and got a job at Bethlehem Ship, a New Jersey firm, and then Westinghouse. He could have worked in private industry for his whole career, but he was fully committed to his polar dreams. In 1933, he joined Richard Byrd’s second expedition to Antarctica, which lasted for two years. Then in 1939, he went back under Byrd with the U.S. Antarctic Service Expedition, another two year trip. He helped discover and map 1,000 miles of unmapped coastline as Byrd’s executive officer.

In 1941, Ronne married Edith Maslin, who preferred Jackie, her middle name. She was born in 1919 in Baltimore. She went to the College of Wooster in Ohio (hey, I taught there for a year!!) before transferring to George Washington where she graduated. Though she was 20 years younger than Ronne, they met I think when she was still in college and they married shortly after he returned from his second mission to Antarctica.

During World War II, both the Ronnes worked for the government. Finn was the Navy while Jackie worked for the State Department, including as International Information Specialist in the Near and Far Eastern Division of Cultural Affairs. After the war, Finn was determined to return to Antarctica and wanted to take Jackie with him. No woman had ever stepped foot on Antarctica before, not to mention spend the winter there. She did it in 1946. He was the commander of this mission, which is named after him as the gravestone elucidates in about as much detail as one sees on modern gravestones. Now, Jackie was a very good writer and so she was designated the expedition’s recorder and historian. What this meant is that she took copious and very good notes and Finn would turn into a book later on. Such it was during this time–women doing the work for the husband. That book was Antarctic Conquest, which was published in 1949.

They kept going back to Antarctica. The Navy wanted to know everything there was about the continent and created Operation Deep Freeze in the 1950s to coordinate this. Finn was the leader of one of the bases involved. He wrote a bunch more books about his explorations as well. He won tons of medals, including St. Olav’s Medal by the king of Norway. He died in 1980, at the age of 80.

Jackie was as taken with the polar regions as Finn was. In fact, she visited Antarctica a remarkable 15 different times. She was visiting the continent long after Finn died. As late as 1995, she was going back there to give talks to scientists.

In 2004, Jackie wrote her autobiography, Antarctica’s First Lady. She died in 2009, at the age of 89.

Finn and Jackie Ronne are buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like this series to visit other American polar explorers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Robert Peary is also in Arlington but I haven’t visited him, as is Harold June. In fact, I bet most of our major polar explorations are occupying the land of the traitor Lee. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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