Laurence McKinley Gould’s geological exploration of Antarctica

Laurence McKinley Gould

Laurence McKinley Gould

On August 22, 1896American geologist, educator, and polar explorer Laurence McKinley Gould was born. Gould was the first geologist to reach the interior of the Antarctic continent. He travelled to the Queen Maud Mountains, making geological and glaciological surveys.

Laurence Gould began teaching in 1914 while savinf money for college. He managed to enroll at the University of Michigan two years later. However, his education was interrupted by World War I. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served until 1919. In 1921, Gould graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and he then joined the University of Michigan faculty as a geology instructor while still continuing his education. In 1923, Gould received his Master’s degree and wrote his dissertation on the geology of Utah’s La Sal Mountains. He earned his Doctorate degree in 1925. He became first assistant professor and associate professor later, in 1930.

In 1926, Gould took part in his first expedition to the Artic as assistant director and geologist. One year later he served as geographer and topologist for George P. Putnam’s expedition to survey the coast of Baffin Island in Arctic Canada. Laurence Gold also accompanied Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his first expedition to Antarctica where Gould served as chief scientist and second-in-command. During the journey, Gould and five further members of the expedition traveled 1500 miles into the Queen Maud Mountains wich dog-sleds. They aim was to provide ground support and possible emergency assistance for Byrd’s historic first airplane flight over the South Pole. Also the first geological and glaciological survey of an area that Gould called “a veritable paradise for a geologist” was conducted. Byrd’s flight was a great success. Gould and his team members climbed Mount Fridtjof Nansen to investigate its geology and the layered sandstones that Gould found in outcrops at the mountain’s peak helped confirm that Antarctica was linked geologically to the Earth’s other continents.

For his achievements during the journey, Laurance Gould received a a Congressional Gold Medal, the 1930 David Livingstone Gold Medal of the American Geographical Society, and a Medal of the Mayor’s Committee of the City of New York.

Before accepting a position as full professor and chairman of the geology department at Carleton College, Gould traveled around the country to give lectures on his journeys and published the book “Cold: the Record of an Antarctic Sledge Journey”. Gould also published many scientific articles about findings of the Byrd expedition. In 1945, he was named president at Carleton and held that position until 1962.

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