The Ronne Family
An Exploring Bethesda Family
Pyle Students Claim a "First"
This week (April 26 –
May 2) is National Science and Technology Week, sponsored by the National
Science Foundation. This year’s theme is “Polar Connections.” For a
Bethesda family with strong polar connections it has particularly personal
When Pyle Middle
Schoolers Jackie Tupek, 12, and Michael Tupek, 14, responded to the
typical question of “what did you do over the holidays?” they had an
unusual answer: “We went to Antarctica.” They were following their
heritage to the bottom of the world and can claim to be the first 4th
generation of a family to visit the vast wilderness continent.
Jackie and Michael accompanied their
parents, Al Tupek, 47, Deputy Division Director for Science Resources
Studies at the National Science Foundation, and Karen Ronne Tupek, 47, an
architect at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the daughter of a
Norwegian-American polar explorer, on the tourist ship, Orient Lines'
"Marco Polo." Their grandmother, Edith “Jackie” Ronne, also a Bethesda
resident, was a celebrity lecturer on board, as she was the first woman to
go to the Antarctic, overwintering as a working member of her husband’s
private scientific expedition in 1946-48.
Jackie and Michael’s
great-grandfather, Martin Ronne, was a Norwegian sailmaker and was on
Arctic expeditions with Norwegian polar explorers Nansen and Amundsen. He
was on Amundsen’s expedition to the Antarctic when he became the first to
discover the South Pole in 1911. At the age of 67, he went on the first
Byrd (Admiral Richard E. Byrd) Antarctic expedition (1928-9), as the only
member of that expedition to have been there before, including Byrd.
Their grandfather, Captain Finn Ronne (USNR), who became an American
citizen, replaced him on the Second Byrd Expedition (1933-5), and later
built a base in the peninsula area for the U.S. Antarctic Service
Expedition in 1940-2.
Captain Ronne achieved his dream of having
his own private expedition in 1946-8, the Ronne Antarctic Research
Expedition. His wife, Jackie Ronne, 20 years younger, at the last minute
accidentally went along on the 15 month expedition, becoming the first
American woman to set foot in Antarctica and the first woman, period, to
over-winter there as an expedition member. She kept all the records and
wrote newspaper releases. Captain Ronne named a huge area of land he
discovered and mapped after his wife, "Edith Ronne Land," located at the
base of the peninsula. This is a rare honor for a woman of non-royal
birth. In later years, the name was changed to the Ronne Ice Shelf.
Captain Ronne became a commissioned
officer in the U.S. Navy and rose to Captain. He was involved in Arctic
and Antarctic affairs his whole career, including selecting the site for
Thule Air Force Base in Greenland and as military chief at Ellsworth
Station, Antarctica, during the International Geophysical Year, 1956-6.
In the sixties, he led the very first tourist cruise to the Antarctic.
With her parents, Karen Tupek visited Spitzbergen in the high Arctic above
Norway in 1962. Captain and Mrs. Ronne became the first couple to stand
at the South Pole in 1971. Captain Ronne died in 1980 at the age of 80.
So it was only natural and fitting that
Jackie and Michael became the fourth generation of the Ronne family to
visit the Antarctic. They spent two weeks there over the Christmas
holidays, and still talk excitedly about the trip. They traveled first to
Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they boarded the ship. Seeing nesting
albatross and rock-hopper penguins on a barren, remote island was the
highlight of a two-day stop in the Falkland Islands. While sailing south
across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, they encountered
frolicking whales and many drifting icebergs, some as large as a city
Once in the Antarctic, they made landings
- first at Deception Island, a flooded volcano. Mountains ring the
volcanic cauldron to form the bay, which had warm springs heating the
water. Their parents were the brave ones to take a swim there, while
seals, nicknamed "blubber slugs", lay on the nearby volcanic ash beaches.
The scenery was spectacular, but it is
always the animals that hold the most interest. Later stops at several
former scientific stations yielded many penguins tending their newborn
chicks. That was the favorite part for these Bethesda youngsters. "I
liked watching the penguins build their nests and take care of their
babies. And they are so cute when they walk to the edge of the ice and
dive in the water." said Jackie. Michael says, "I definitely want to go
back to the Antarctic. There is so much to see!"
Ronne Entrance (72°30′S
74°0′W) is a broad southwest entrance of the
George VI Sound where it opens on
Bellingshausen Sea at the southwest side of
Alexander Island. It was discovered on a sledge journey through the
sound in December 1940 by
Carl Eklund of the
US Antarctic Service (USAS), 1939-41, and named "Ronne Bay". Since
1940, the head of the bay has receded eastward into George VI Sound,
altering the relationships on which the name was based. The name was
therefore changed to Ronne Entrance, in keeping with the physical
characteristics of the feature. Named after the Ronne family, of which the
Martin Ronne, was a member of the Norwegian expedition under Amundsen,
1910-12, and the
Byrd Antarctic Expedition 1928-30; the son, Finn Ronne (d.1980), was a
member of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition, 1933-35, and the USAS, 1939-41.
shelf is in
Antarctica bordering the
The seaward side of the Filchner-Ronne ice sheet is divided into
Eastern (Filcher) and the larger Western (Ronne) sections by
Berkner Island. The whole ice shelf covers some 430,000 km²,
making it the second largest ice shelf in Antarctica, after the
Ross Ice Shelf. It grows perpetually due to a flow of inland ice
sheets. From time to time, when the shearing stresses exceed the strength
of the ice, cracks form and large parts of the ice sheet separate from the
ice shelf and continue as
This is known as "calving".
The Filchner ice shelf is nourished primarily by the
Slessor Glacier, the
Recovery Glacier, and the
Support Force Glacier, all located east of Berkner Island. The east
part of this shelf was discovered in January-February 1912 by the
German Antarctic Expedition under
Wilhelm Filchner. Filchner named the feature for
Kaiser Wilhelm, but the Emperor requested it be named for its
The Ronne ice shelf is the larger and western part of the
Filchner-Ronne ice shelf. It is bounded on the west by the base of the
Antarctic Peninsula and
Ellsworth Land. Commander
Ronne, USNR, leader of the
Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition (RARE) in 1947-48, discovered and
photographed a strip along the entire northern portion of this ice shelf
in two aircraft flights in November and December 1947. He named it the
"Lassiter Shelf Ice" and gave the name "Edith Ronne Land" to the land
presumed to lie south of it. In 1957-58, the US-IGY party at
Ellsworth Station, under now Captain Ronne, determined that the ice
shelf was larger than previously charted, that it extends southward to
preempt most of "Edith Ronne Land." Inasmuch as Capt. James Lassiter's
name has been assigned to a coast of
Palmer Land, the
Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) approved the name
Ronne Ice Shelf for this large ice shelf, on the basis of first
sighting and exploration of the ice shelf by Ronne and parties under his
leadership. The shelf is therefore named for
Edith Ronne, the wife of Finn Ronne.
A-38 broke off the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf. It had a size of roughly
150 times 50 km
and was thus larger than
It later broke up into three parts.
The ice of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf can be as thick as 600 m;
the water below is about 1400 m deep at the deepest point.
The Filchner-Ronne ice shelf is also known as the Ronne-Filchner ice
shelf but the form Filchner-Ronne appears to be more popular.