Carl Eklund


East Base



Born in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, on January 27, 1909, Carl Eklund received his B.A. degree in biology from Carlton College in Northfield, MN, in 1932, and his M.S. degree in Fish and Game Management from Oregon State College on 1938. 


Eklund spent seven summers as the athletic director of the Boy Scout camp in Nausau, Wisconsin.  Prior to joining USAS, Eklund worked as a forestry foreman for the National Park Service in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, a wildlife research assistant in Oregon, and a biologist at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan.


Eklund’s most important accomplishment while on USAS was his participation in the Southern Sledge Party led by Finn Ronne.  Eklund and Ronne traveled 1264 statute miles in 84 days, making it one of the longest sledge journeys in Antarctic history. It was at the turning point of this journey that islands were sighted that would become known as the Eklund Islands.


Upon Eklund’s return to the U.S., he worked as a research biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  During the war, Eklund became a commissioned army officer and was assigned to the Arctic Section of the Arctic Desert Tropic Information Center. 


At the war’s end he returned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and worked in various capacities as his career developed and his scientific reputation began to spread.


Eklund returned to Antarctica with the National Science Foundation as the Scientific Station Leader of the Wilkes Station during the first IGY.  In addition to directing scientists in ornithological and biological research, Eklund conducted field studies of south-polar skuas for his doctoral dissertation.  Ekland received his Ph.D. in zoology and geography from the University of Maryland in 1959.   


In 1958, Eklund was appointed to the position of Chief of the Polar and Arctic Branch, Environmental Research Division, U.S. Army Research in Washington, D.C., where he directed an extensive Arctic research program which frequently took him to Alaska and Greenland.  During this time, Eklund served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Polar Research and was chosen as the first president of the Antarctican Society of Washington, D.C.


Throughout his career, Eklund authored numerous articles for scholarly journals. At the time of his death on January 3, 1962, Eklund’s first book, co-authored by Joan Beckman, was in draft form and was published the following year, titled Antarctica:  Polar Research and Discovery During the International Geophysical Year.


U.S. Antarctic Service Medal (gold)


Geographical feature:    Eklund Islands


Contributions:  Member of the main Southern Sledging Party with Finn Ronne



Eklund, Carl R.. 1945. Condensed Ornithology Report, East Base, Palmer Land. (U. S. Antarctic Service Exped., 1939-41). Amer. Philos. Soc, Proc. 89 ( 1 ) : p299; Ornithology


Ronne, Finn. 1945. The Main Southeast Sledge Journey From East Base, Palmer Land. Antarctica. Amer. Philos. Soc, Proc. 89 ( 1 ) : p13; Sledge Journey






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Introduction to “Farthest South”

By Signe Eklund Schaefer


My father, Carl Eklund, was born to be an explorer. From childhood on he was often the first to head into unknown territory. As the fourth son of Swedish immigrants in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, he asked his high school principal to be sure to prepare him well because he was going on to college. He was the first in the town to complete a PhD degree, and his polar adventures assured his hometown status as local hero. His whole life was devoted to learning and discovering new things.


In 1939 he was offered the possibility of going to the Antarctic with Admiral Byrd, and so he headed off to East Base just weeks after marrying my mother Harriet San Giovanni. It was from East Base that at the age of 31, he went exploring and mapping by dog sledge, with Finn Ronne, for 84 days. This trip, which covered 1,264 miles -- was one of the highlights of his life, and it is the subject of the following story “Farthest South”. As a child I always knew the story – it was the source of many exciting bedtime tales for my sister Linda and me – but I did not know that he had ever written about it. Sadly, he died while I was still a teenager, and it was not until thirty years later that an old carbon copy of this story was found in one of my uncle’s files.


The story tells of a long-past era of polar exploration, with all the drama and excitement that was the daily reality for those men who set out into the unknown with dogs, tents, rations, and only the simplest technology. My father had great respect and affection for the dogs who made the journey possible; years later, as scientific leader at the Wilkes Base during the IGY, he insisted that there be dogs at the base. He knew how the dogs helped the men’s morale through the long dark months. It would have saddened him to know that now dogs are no longer allowed in the Antarctic.


My father loved science and discovery, and it was always a joy for him to share this with others. His story includes lively descriptions of the ever-shifting land and weather conditions and also of daily life as he and Finn went ever further from any other human beings. He describes the dangers of crevasses, the challenges of sledging, the importance of radio contact (which they lost), the perils of falling ill, and most especially the exhilaration of exploration.


For all his accomplishments, it was my father’s warmth and good humor that so deeply touched people, and this is certainly evident in the story. Even in the harshest of conditions he retained his essential human decency and integrity. Rereading his story now, as I write this in the spring of 2011, I am particularly moved by the following sentence: “At last I felt as if I had done a little bit for my country in the line of exploration – something which we could claim by right of exploration and not by bloodshed.”


Link to full text of  Farthest South” by Carl Eklund