Sir George Hubert Wilkins

(1888—1958) polar explorer and climatologist

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(1888–1958), Australian polar explorer, born at Mount Bryan East, South Australia. He served as second in command and photographer to the Canadian Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879–1962) on the latter's third expedition to the Canadian Arctic in 1913. He left it in 1917 to join the Australian Flying Corps then fighting in France during the First World War (1914–18), being seconded to the military historical section as an official photographer. In 1919 he was navigator of a Blackburn Kangaroo aircraft on a flight from England to Australia and in 1920–1 was appointed second in command and naturalist to the British Imperial Antarctic expedition under Sir Ernest Shackleton. Between 1926 and 1928 he commanded an Arctic expedition sponsored by the Detroit News during which, with a co-pilot, he flew 3,360 kilometres (2,100 mls.) across the Arctic from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitsbergen, a feat for which he was knighted. The following year he led the Hearst Antarctic expedition and in 1931 an expedition in the conventionally powered submarine Nautilus, attempting to reach the North Pole under the ice. However, defects in the submarine obliged him to return after reaching a latitude of 82° 15′ N. An account of the voyage is given in his book Under the North Pole. Between 1933 and 1939 he managed the four Lincoln Ellsworth Antarctic expeditions and 1942–52 he was consultant to the US Army military planning division. After his death his ashes were scattered at the North Pole from the nuclear-powered USS Skate when it became, in 1959, the first submarine to surface there.

From The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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