The Ronne Family




An Exploring Bethesda Family

Pyle Students Claim a "First"

April 1998

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 meaning. 

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 block. 

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 Finn Ronne and 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 father, 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.

The Filchner-Ronne ice shelf is in Antarctica bordering the Weddell Sea.

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 icebergs. 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 discoverer.



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 Finn 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.

In October 1998, the iceberg A-38 broke off the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf. It had a size of roughly 150 times 50 km and was thus larger than Delaware. 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.