By Tom Dare
A SERIES of fascinating images of a New York socialite from the early 1900s who spent her huge inheritance financing several death-defying explorations of the Arctic have been published in a new book about her life.
Images from ‘The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd’ by Joanna Kafarowski show the socialite-cum-fearless adventurer posing with the body of a dead polar bear during one journey to the Arctic, while another shows the fancy Louis Vuitton case she took with her on her first trip.
Further pictures show Louise Boyd strolling down a street alongside her long-time chauffeur, with another capturing her on the deck of one of her ships as it set sail in search of new challenges in some of the remotest parts of the world.
Born to a millionaire mining magnate father and a mother from one of New York’s most prestigious families, Louise Arner Boyd inherited a staggering family fortune when her parents died in 1919 and 1920 respectively.
With it she began to travel extensively, seeing as much of the world as she could until, on a trip to Norway in 1924, she saw something that would shape the course of the rest of her life; The Polar Ice Pack.
Four years and several Arctic expeditions later and Boyd found herself involved a search for Roald Admunsen, the man whose boat she had hired just a few years earlier to get her first taste of Arctic exploration.
And it was a trip, Kafarowski says, that changed her life.
“She gripped the ship’s railing tightly with both rough-gloved hands while gazing sombrely into the sprawling darkness of the frozen night.
“Tall for a woman, broad-shouldered, wavy brown hair tucked under a snug cap framing a handsome face with piercing blue eyes, she could easily have been mistaken for one of the crew. Beneath her feet, the Hobby juddered and jarred as it made its way through the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean.
“Though unaccustomed to life onboard ship, and only recently acquainted with northern waters, California native Louise Arner Boyd found herself profoundly moved and invigorated by the experience — and more than a little unsettled. Whether above or below deck, she was never alone. There were always experienced seamen keeping a watchful eye on the gently bred American socialite who had somehow become an integral part of one of the most desperate quests in polar history — the 1928 search for missing famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
“She caught herself as the ship yawed abruptly to starboard. What was she thinking? Only a few weeks before, she had been dressed in a bejewelled gown, dining on lobster at Claridge’s in London, England, and dancing the quickstep at the Ritz. And yet here she was, wearing stiff leather boots and rough woollen trousers that itched like the dickens, standing unsteadily on
the slippery bow of a ship sailing northward. There was so much for her to absorb — so much that the male crew members just took for granted.
“As unlikely as it seemed, Miss Louise Arner Boyd of San Rafael, California, was never supposed to be discussing weighty matters with naval commanders on the high seas, recognised by all onboard as one of the leaders of a daring rescue mission of international significance.”
The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd by Joanna Kafarowski is published by Dundurn, and can be pre-ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Polar-Adventures-Rich-American-Dame/dp/1459739701/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510315115&sr=1-9&refinements=p_n_publication_date%3A182243031