Lois M. Jones
Earning her doctorate in geology from Ohio State University, Lois Jones had to settle for analyzing samples that had been collected by male colleagues. Her research focused on using strontium isotopes as natural tracers to determine the origin of the salts in the lakes and soils of the southern Victoria Land in Antarctica and at the time women were not allowed to take part in the scientific expeditions run by the U.S. Navy. In order to evaluate the salt content of a river flowing into Lake Vanda, Jones wanted to do her own field work.
The National Science Foundation and the director of the Institute of Polar Studies at Ohio State University had been pushing for women to be able to be part of research expeditions to Antarctica but the U.S. Navy had barred women from its program. When Jones submitted her proposal for an expedition to the McMurdo dry valleys it was given funding from the NSF with the condition that the entire team be composed of women. The Navy finally agreed to support this first female research team on the condition that they would spend the majority of their time doing field research and not living at McMurdo station.
The team, led by Jones, included entomologist Kay Lindsay, geologist Eileen McSaveney, and undergraduate chemistry major Terry Tickhill, arrived in November of 1969. Wanting an aerial view of the geology of the team’s work location, Jones had asked to join a supply flight to the South Pole. In a bit of a publicity stunt the Navy decided to take all seven women in Antarctica to the pole, though one declined as it would interrupt her work, so Jones’ team along with a reporter and a New Zealander biologist were flown to the pole. When the plane landed the six women linked arms and together became the first women to set foot on the South Pole.
Camping for four months in the Wright Valley, the team collected data and rock specimens returning to Ohio State to analyze their samples and produced numerous publications on their findings.
Written by Angela Goad