Louise Arner Boyd
American Polar Society Luminary
When Louise Arner Boyd (1887 – 1972) sailed to the Arctic, she brought her maid along with her. Boyd was a San Francisco heiress who visited Franz Josef Land as a tourist in 1926 and returned to the high latitudes two years later as a participant in the international search-and-rescue mission following the disappearance of Roald Amundsen.
Boyd became fascinated with Arctic land forms and returned five more times as the leader and organizer of multidisciplinary scientific expeditions conducting a comprehensive survey of the coast of East Greenland. Boyd’s expeditions were developed in association with the American Geographical Society and its celebrated president, Dr. Isaiah Bowman. In addition to managing these projects, Boyd also served as photographer, cinematographer, and botanist. One of her innovations was the use of a heavy aerial mapping camera to document a glacial landscape at ground level. The aerial equipment enabled her to produce a mosaic of high-quality photos that served as the basis for new and more detailed maps of the region.
In 1938, Boyd achieved a landing along the coast of East Greenland further north than any expedition prior to the modern submarine era. She flew over the North Pole in 1955 at the age of 67. Between her polar voyages, she lived the life of a gracious socialite, entertaining prominent guests and hosting benefits for various charities at Maple Lawn, her Bay Area estate.