north pole expedition

Members of an expedition to the North Pole in May 1971, led by Italian millionaire Guido Monzino

Peter Pagh/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

North Pole Firsts

There continue to be many North Pole "firsts" -- it's a wonder that people aren't bumping into each other on their journeys. Here are just a few of the history-makers:

  • First black man: Matthew Henson reached the North Pole in 1909 as part of the Robert Peary expedition.
  • First confirmed flight over the North Pole: Norwegian Roald Amundsen (with Umberto Nobile, Lincoln Ellsworth and 11 others) on May 12, 1926, at 1:30 a.m. in an airship.
  • First submarine: the USS Nautilus was the first to navigate under the Pole on Aug. 3, 1958.
  • First solo journey by dogsled: Naomi Uemura of Japan, reached the North Pole on April 29, 1978, after covering 450 miles in 57 days.
  • First woman: Ann Bancroft, the only female member of the Steger International Polar Expedition, in 1986
  • First motorcycle trip: Fukashi Kazami (Shinji Kazama) on April 20, 1987
  • First solo, unsupported trip: Norwegian Borge Ousland, on April 23, 1994
  • First unsupported journey to the North Pole and back: Richard Weber (of Canada) and Mikhail Malakhov (of Russia) took a 121-day journey, ending on May 12, 1995.
  • First all-female expedition to reach the North Pole: McVitie's Penguin Polar Relay Team, May 26, 1997
  • First successful hot-air balloon trip: Debbie Harding became the first person to lead a hot-air balloon flight over the Pole in 1998.
  • First long-distance swim at the North Pole: Lewis Gordon Pugh made it .6 miles (1 kilometer) in 29 F (-2 C) saltwater in July 2007. According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, Pugh had no permanent damage after the plunge, but the fingers on one hand stayed numb for several days [source: Lamb].
  • First black woman: Barbara Hillary was 75 years old when she reached the North Pole in April 2007.