Antarctic Researcher

First woman to undertake an Antarctic research programme

Like Pamela Young before her, Rosemary Askin became not just an inspiration for women in science, but also one for generations of Antarctic researchers.

Just a year after Young became the first New Zealand woman to live and work full-time in Antarctica, Askin became the first New Zealand female to undertake her own scientific programme there.

On top of that, she was the first woman to work "deep-field" on the frozen continent.

At the age of 21, in 1970, Askin was camping out in remote Victoria Land, on the western side of the Ross Ice Shelf.


Her work turned up the richest-known site of fossilised fish remains, and younger rocks in the area formed the basis of her later PhD research.

Her fortitude didn't go unnoticed - even among the men at Scott Base at the time.

Brian Porter, the base leader, said the young Askin gained the "respect and admiration" of all of the men taking part in that summer's research programme, adding she had "set a high standard for future women who may be involved in research in Antarctica, traditionally a man's world only".

She would return to the ice many times over the following three decades, traveling to the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, Victoria Land, and Transantarctic Mountains.

In 1982, she was a member of the research team that discovered the first mammal fossils in Antarctica and was involved in research that demonstrated Antarctica experienced an abrupt warming cycle 15 million years ago.

More recently, she helped set up the US Polar Rock Repository at Ohio State University, one of several US universities she has taught and researched in.

As with Pamela Young, her time on the continent has been marked with a physical legacy: Mt Askin in the Darwin Mountains are named after her.